If convicted, party to play ‘victim card’, but will it work?

There is a buzz outside the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) office in north Bihar’s Madhubani. A fleet of Scorpios is parked outside. As uniformed guards saunter around, a dozen men — in starched white kurtas — and one woman are sitting around a table. Ram Lakhan Ram Raman, former Bihar Education Minister and RJD MLA, is chairing a party meeting to prepare for a district convention. Describing the political mood, he claims, “The poor had got power, freedom from exploitation during the RJD rule, but Nitish Kumar has reversed it. People have begun remembering Laluji’s rule fondly.”

But if there is one theme that dominates conversations across Bihar’s towns, it is not Lalu Prasad’s past. It is his future. A court in Ranchi is expected to pronounce on Monday its verdict in a fodder scam-related case. And if the buzz in government and judicial circles is to be believed, Mr. Prasad is in for tough times. His conviction — if it happens — will take place at a time succession is unclear, and the RJD’s legendary Muslim-Yadav alliance is fraying.

Asked what would happen if the verdict is adverse, there is a moment of silence. Mr. Raman replies, “People will have double the energy. Everyone knows he is being trapped.”

The RJD’s campaign — in the absence of its mascot — will rely on a story of victimhood.

A senior RJD leader in Patna, on condition of anonymity since he does not want to be seen as casting aspersions on the judiciary, says: “We will say an upper-caste judge, linked to Nitish Kumar, deliberately issued such a judgment. We will question, why is it that the verdict came now, six months before an election? We will plaster Laluji’s images from prison, with his sons leading the charge in public.” In recent months, Mr. Prasad’s two sons — Tejaswi and Tej Pratap — have been seen on party platforms. Another party leader says, “Indians have a deep desire to see their leaders penalised. But as soon as they are penalised, there is a surge of sympathy.”

But will it work? Sanjay Yadav, who runs a tea shop at Mominpur village in the Rahika block…

  • Even if RJD core base remains intact, a churning is unmistakable

  • Irrespective of verdict, Lalu, with his intimate connections with segments of Bihar’s population, will not fade away

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