Senior leaders say party will capitalise on people’s sympathy; Rabri says it is a political conspiracy

The special CBI court’s verdict finding Lalu Prasad guilty of corruption in the fodder scam case dealt a blow to his Rashtriya Janata Dal, which hoped to break out of a decade of isolation after the ruling Janata Dal (United) broke with his long-standing ally, Bharatiya Janata Party.

Gloom descended on Mr. Prasad’s residence at Circular Road here.

“This is most certainly a big blow for the party and the country,” senior RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav told The Hindu.

Asked whether the leadership was in disarray, Mr. Yadav said: “There is no leadership crisis. Senior leaders will sit down and take a decision.”

Speaking to a news channel, Mr. Prasad’s wife and former Chief Minister, Rabri Devi, termed the case a political conspiracy. “What we feared has happened. Now, we will go to the people’s court.”

“Our sentiments have been hurt,” MP Jagdanand Singh said. “This is a setback for the struggle of the poor. Mr. Prasad is a leader of the backward sections, that’s why he has always been undermined. But politically, the party has not been hurt. The people are with us. The party’s ideology has reached the grassroots.”

The RJD dominated the Bihar politics in the 1990s; thereafter, its stake slipped. However, it bounced back in 2000. After the Maharajganj by-election, in which the RJD posted a thumping victory, the party’s prospects in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections started looking up.

Many RJD leaders believe that the party can capitalise on people’s sympathy. “There will not be any adverse impact on the party. In Mr. Prasad’s absence too, people will run the party. He will get people’s sympathy,” MLA Akhtarul Iman said.

“You are going to see a tremendous wave of sympathy as Mr. Prasad is not a figure of pity,” another MLA Chandrashekhar said.

On the other hand, the BJP celebrated the verdict.

The former Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, was the main party in a public interest litigation petition filed in the Patna High Court in 1996 to seek a CBI probe into the scam. He said: “Lalu got what he deserved. Lalu had to resign as Chief Minister and he was arrested. Illiterate Rabri was thrust upon Bihar as Chief Minister. After the scam was exposed, corruption at the top level in the State was stopped.”

One of the petitioners was JD(U) MP Shivanand Tiwari. He was originally with the Samata Party; then he joined the RJD, becoming a member of the Rabri Devi Cabinet. Thereafter, he switched to the JD(U).

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did not make comments. JD(U) MP Jagdish Sharma has also been convicted in the case.

Meanwhile, the Lok Janshakti Party, an ally of the RJD, welcomed the verdict, but said Mr. Prasad’s conviction would not affect the ties between the parties.