SC ruling: Setback for Lalu, gain for RJD

SC ruling: Setback for Lalu, gain for RJD

RJD president Lalu Prasad. (DH File Photo)

The Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday, in which the RJD president Lalu Prasad was denied bail may be a severe setback for the incarcerated leader but at the same time, it would help the RJD reap a rich political harvest when the polling starts for Lok Sabha seats in Bihar on Thursday.

Lalu, who was convicted in December 2017 in fodder scam and put behind bars, had appealed in the Supreme Court that he should be granted bail in the case as he has been charged with “conspiracy” and not “corruption.”

“There are no recoveries, no demand. The only major offence under which he has been convicted is conspiracy,” Lalu’s lawyer Kapil Sibal reportedly pleaded in the apex court. Besides, he also cited Lalu’s poor health condition (despite being jailed, Lalu is lodged in Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi) while pleading for his bail.

But the apex court found merit in the CBI's argument that Lalu, despite being incarcerated, had been living in the private ward of the Ranchi hospital and carrying out political activities despite ill-health.

“It is here where I feel Lalu’s lawyers erred. They should have either pleaded for his bail on the basis of his poor health. Or, they should have argued about the necessity of his political activity in view of Lok Sabha polls. Arguing that his 'client was unwell but needed bail as he had to function as party president' was in itself a contradictory stand,” said a senior journalist of a national newspaper.

“Personally, it may be a severe blow to Lalu who will have to remain behind bars. But at the same time, it will create huge sympathy in favour of Lalu-led Mahagatbandhan, when the state goes to polls in seven different phases beginning April 11,” the journalist, preferring anonymity, argued. 

Veteran political scientist Ajay Kumar agrees. “The electorate may not question the apex court verdict on Lalu’s bail plea. But once the message spreads that Lalu will have to remain in jail when other accused (including a former Chief Minister, former Animal Husbandry Minister and the Secretary, who headed the department) have been released on bail, it will polarise the voters. Apart from Muslims and Yadavs, who have stood by Lalu like a rock, the Dalits and EBCs too may throw their weight behind the RJD chief,” argued the political scientist.