Fodder for thought for BJP, Lalu as land battle flares up
Patna,(BiharTimes): The May 16 Income Tax department raids at 22 places said to be related to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad has sparked off a debate over the political motive of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the Centre.
Though Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claimed that the raids at the premises of former Union finance minister P Chidambaram and RJD chief Lalu Prasad are parts of the campaign against corruption yet the Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal as well as the alliance partner, the Janata Dal (United), see a political motive in the whole exercise.
For Chidambaram this may be a new experience, but Lalu is used to what his party calls ‘witch-hunt’.
He went to jail during Emergency way back in 1975 at the age of 27. But then he was not alone to suffer. There were thousands who were thrown behind bars and emerged out as a hero. He went on to become the MP in 1977 at the young age of 29.
Almost 20 years later when the fodder scam was unearthed in January 1996 he was the chief minister of Bihar as well as the president of the the then Janata Dal. He soon became the ‘king-maker’, who got installed H D Deve Gowda as the prime minister on June 1, 1996.
Though there was a favourable government in the Centre the pressure put by the media as well as judiciary forced Lalu to the corner. He had to resign and go to jail. All his trusted friends such as Sharad Yadav, Deve Gowda, Ram Vilas Paswan etc gradually deserted him. Even in Bihar many of his trusted lieutenants crossed over to different parties. The BJP and Nitish Kumar’s Samata Party continued to keep pressure.
In the Lok Sabha elections held in 1998 and 1999 the number of seats won by Lalu Prasad’s party––now Rashtriya Janata Dal––came down.
In September 1999 he lost the Lok Sabha election from his own parliamentary seat in Madhepura to Sharad Yadav, whose party had by then joined hands with the BJP. There was Kargil wave sweeping the country.
But by February 2000 the RJD managed to bounce back and emerged as the biggest party in the Assembly. With the support of the Congress, Rabri Devi once again managed to form the government.
In 2004 Lok Sabha election RJD and Congress along with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP managed to sweep the Lok Sabha election. The impact of fodder scam almost faded though by then Lalu had served several months in jail.
But in November 2005 Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) and BJP won the election. But that was mostly because of the collapse of alliance. Lalu perhaps under-rated the NDA which was routed in the Lok Sabha poll just a year back.
After the 2004 victory Lalu became the railway minister. He continued to occupy the post till 2009. Still in the 2009 Lok Sabha election the Congress and RJD could not fight together. Lalu had to pay dearly. He was neither in power in the Centre or the state.
It was thus Lalu’s political miscalculation and not fodder scam which let him down.
In September 2013 he was convicted in a fodder scam case. However, he later got bail.
After 2010 Assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha election defeats RJD joined hands with the JD(U), which parted ways with the BJP.
By 2015 Assembly election Lalu was once again on the winning side.
An objective study of two decades of fodder scam would reveal that it has harmed Lalu to a limited extent. After 2005 Lalu’s graph started coming down because of his political miscalculation.
The BJP knows this history. What it wishes to see is that the Grand Alliance collapse. This time it is using the land and money laundering cases to corner Lalu. But it remains to be seen whether the saffron party would actually succeed in splitting the alliance.