Chairing the first meeting of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leaders since Lalu Prasad was sent to jail, the former Bihar Chief Minister’s wife Rabri Devi on Sunday exhorted the party to put up a united front during a tough time. “Do not lose confidence or let your morale go down. We will run the party together. We will face this challenging time. The party is our family. It has not weakened. Be united and continue to further the party programme. What happened was wrong, but we have the responsibility of spreading Mr. Prasad’s message and the party’s ideology,” Ms. Devi told party leaders at her residence here.

The meeting passed a resolution that endorsed Mr. Prasad and Ms. Rabri Devi’s leadership. It emphasised party unity, the need to expose the “conspiracy” of the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party against Mr. Prasad.

Ms. Devi assured the party that Mr. Prasad would be released and be able to campaign again.

As a “secular party of the poor”, the RJD would continue to work for the rights and welfare of the backward classes, she said.

Observing that the turnout was not as per expectations, she said: “This is a good meeting in Mr. Prasad’s absence.”

Referring obliquely to her estranged brother Sadhu Yadav, she expressed the hope that the “trying time” would help resolve “personal disputes.”

With tongue-in-cheek remarks, she squarely attacked the media and rival parties for spreading the misconception that the party was on the brink of falling apart.

“There was a scare in the media over the issue of leadership. The media persons ask questions which have been prompted by our detractors. There is collusion between the media and the [ruling] Janata Dal (United). Since we are a poor people’s party, we do not have the money for publicity. Do not pay any attention to criticism,” she said.

The party, she said, would be keenly watching the events of November 22, when the CBI will file its counter affidavit at the Jharkhand High Court regarding the mention of Nitish Kumar and other leaders in the fodder scam. “However only a few media persons will be following that,” she quipped.

RJD State president Ramchandra Purve said the party would be “guided” by Ms. Devi in Mr. Prasad’s absence.

The call for unity was the thrust of all the speeches at the meeting. Senior leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui deflected speculation that he would quit the party, saying “he does not leave anyone till the end.”

About the impact on the RJD’s Muslim vote, Mr. Siddiqui said, “Muslims are watching national developments. There is talk of Pasmanda Muslims [who support the JD(U)] and others, but the Muslims know that when Narendra Modi wields his sword, no one sees which type of Muslim you are. Muslims know who their friends are.”

Another leader, Raghunath Jha, stressed the need for the party to garner support from the Mahadalit section as well.

In a show of unity, all the senior leaders, including Ram Kripal Yadav, Taslimuddin, Jagdanand Singh, Prabhunath Singh, Gulam Ghaus, and Mr. Prasad’s sons Tej Pratap and Tejaswi Yadav attended the meeting.

IANS adds: Speaking to reporters here earlier, Rabri Devi said: “I will not contest elections either from Saran or any other seat.”