Lalu draws flak for Bihari pejorative against Congress leader
“Should we have given one seat (to Congress) for it to lose? So that it could lose even its deposit?” Mr. Yadav had said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad Yadav raised the hackles of estranged ally Congress and rival JD(U) on Sunday with his remark against AICC in-charge of Bihar Bhakt Charan Das, drawing strong condemnation from from a close aide of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who called the RJD supremo "anti-Dalit".
Ashok Choudhary, a powerful member of the state cabinet, deplored the RJD leader’s use of a Bihari slang to berate Bhakt Charan Das, a Dalit, while replying to questions from journalists in the national capital.
Mr. Yadav, who is scheduled to arrive here later in the day, asserted he will campaign for the byelections to Tarapur and Kusheshwar Asthan assembly seats, which have become a flashpoint between the two old allies.
When asked whether it was curtains down for the Congress-RJD alliance, Lalu Prasad Yadav snapped, asking "Kya hota hai Congress ka gathbandhan (of what use is an alliance with the Congress).
"Should we have parted with a seat so that the Congress loses it and forfeits its deposit," Mr. Yadav remarked with disdain.
When asked about the allegation by Mr. Das that by turning its back on the Congress the RJD was helping the BJP, he quipped, "Bhakt Charan is a bhakchonhar (stupid person)".
Mr. Choudhary, who is himself a former state Congress president who walked over to the JD(U) less than four years ago, expressed strong disapproval of the language used by the flamboyant former Bihar chief minister and asserted it showed his 'anti-Dalit mindset".
“The RJD has always been anti-Dalit. This has been reflected in the type of language Lalu has used against Bhakt Charan Das. Recently, Tejashwi Yadav skipped a function which was addressed by no less a person than President Ram Nath Kovind. That, too, was indicative of the party’s disregard for Dalits," said Mr. Choudhary, a prominent Dalit leader who had served as a minister in the Rabri Devi government, but has been known to be uncomfortable with the RJD.
Interestingly, earlier in the day, Nitish Kumar was complimented by a senior Congress leader for having “better secular credentials despite his tie-up with the BJP" than the RJD chief.
"Nitish Kumar and his JD(U) have always maintained a stance distinct from the BJP despite the tie-up. Their stand on the Gujarat riots is well known. It is Kumar, who ensured that the perpetrators of the Bhagalpur riots were brought to justice," said Anil Sharma, a former BPCC chief.
Mr. Sharma, who has been strongly critical of the RJD's treatment of the Congress, holding the domineering senior partner responsible for his party's decline in Bihar, had also said, "I think it would serve Lalu well if he does not come here for campaigning."
"If he goes to Tarapur, it would bring to memory the Sadbhavana award that his wife's government conferred on Kameshwar Yadav, the prime accused of the Bhagalpur carnage who belongs to Munger district where the assembly segment falls," said Mr. Sharma.
"Lalu will have a tough time defending his claim of having secular credentials. After all, he first formed a government in 1990 with the support of the BJP," the Congress leader recalled.
Meanwhile, the BJP seemed to be enjoying the show.
"Lalu Prasad is known for using such language. The Congress, which has ridden piggyback on the RJD, seems to be filled with sudden enthusiasm upon the entry of an imported leader like Kanhaiya Kumar. The party should now brace itself for more insults from Lalu who may not spare even Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi," state BJP spokesman Nikhil Anand said in a statement.