Out of power and ditched by Nitish, Lalu still a force to be reckoned with

A mega affair, Lalu’s anti-BJP rally on Sunday brought back memories of his 1997 Garib Rally, which is dubbed as the biggest to have ever been organised by the RJD chief

Photo courtesy: Twitter\ANI
Photo courtesy: Twitter\ANI

Navendu Sharma

In or out of power, Lalu Prasad Yadav on Sunday yet again proved that he will always be a force to reckon with in Bihar politics. Thousands of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supporters, men, women and the elderly, converged on Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan for the ‘Desh bachao, Bhajapa bhagao’ rally.

Held under the umbrella banner of 18 parties, including the RJD, it was the first time in 27 years that Lalu presented himself at a political rally in Bihar’s capital while being out of power at both state and Centre.

But his supporters sure didn’t seem to mind his political fortunes. A political observer at the rally recounted Lalu’s mega ‘Garib Rally’ in 1997, when he was the Chief Minister (CM) of the state right before he resigned in connection with the Fodder Scam, to impress the huge scale of Sunday’s rally. The ‘Garib Rally’ is rated as the largest ever rally organised by Lalu, coming at a time as it did when Bihar and Jharkhand were a single entity.

The usually scorching Patna Sun also seemed to have helped Lalu’s cause on the day. It was relatively less warm compared to preceding days, a factor that brought out supporters in dozens. “Had sun shone brightly, many rallyists would have fainted,” a RJD supporter noted at the venue.

The rally was planned by the RJD during its conclave at Rajgir a few months back, when the RJD-JD(U)-Congress’ Grand Alliance government was still going strong in Bihar. The original objective had been to mobilise the masses against the BJP-RSS machinations.

However, it was Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who found himself in the firing line of Opposition speakers, in the wake of ditching the Grand Alliance to join hands with the BJP.

Leading the anti-Nitish rhetoric at the rally was Lalu’s son and former deputy CM Tejashvi Yadav, who billed Nitish as “power-hungry”, to a thunderous applause of those present.

Tejashwi’s elder brother, Tej Pratap, took care of the theatrics as he blew a conch shell to apparently mark the symbolic start of a political war.

In what may be an encouraging sign for RJD’s political fortunes, the overflowing Gandhi Maidan witnessed many participants returning for lack of space at the venue. “Maidan bhar gaya hai (The venue is full),” said a rallyist.

The youth support for the rally seemed impressive enough too. Youngsters could be seen riding on 25-30 motorcycles on Dak Bungalow and Fraser Road, close to the venue, in an attempt to create a wave of support among locals. Women participation in the rally was, however, lackadaisical.

Lalu Prasad had reportedly advised against holding ‘Launda Naach’ (male dancers in female attire) and other ‘vulgar’ performances for the rallyists. But, an RJD MLA from Gaya, Surendra Yadav, and an MLA from Sandesh, Arun Yadav, still organized performances at their residences in Patna.

Despite the huge footfall that the rally attracted, it still may be too early to predict if it would overturn Lalu’s waning political fortunes on the ground.

Ashok Kumar Tanti of Mahatma Gandhi Nagar in Patna was leaving for Sasaram on Sunday morning. Asked if would be attending Lalu’s rally, he quipped, “Kamaiyenge nahin to Laluji thode khane ko denge (If I don’t earn, Lalu will not give me food).” A rickshaw-puller, Narendra, said he would later go to the rally. But when asked whom did he support between Lalu and Nitish, he chose to stay quiet.

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Published: 28 Aug 2017, 4:34 PM