Lalu Yadav may well be in jail, but he is still managing to churn the political landscape in Bihar. His imprisonment will have a big fallout and all concerned parties are rushing to explain who really will benefit. This will not come as a surprise if the political giant from Bihar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) says that the electoral future of the party is not in jeopardy even after Lalu Prasad Yadav’s conviction. Meanwhile, JD(U) and BJP have started to say that RJD’s potential to wield power in the state might well be over. Both political parties back their statements with same electoral history: performance of RJD in Bihar assembly election in 2015.
In the last assembly elections, RJD won 80 seats and the JD(U) 71 and Congress’ 27 seats and it saw the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or the grand alliance in the state coming to power under Nitish Kumar. For RJD, the election saw a huge jump of 22 seats from the last assembly polls before Lalu’s conviction in 2010. As of now, RJD and JD(U) have parted ways. RJD claims Lalu ensured the 2015 victory, while the JD(U) credits Nitish Kumar. However, in the Lok Sabha elections held just after Lalu’s conviction, RJD won only four seats out of 40 seats in Bihar.
RJD vice-president Shivanand Tiwari said, “I don’t think Lalu’s conviction will impact his voters in any form. After all, was Lalu not convicted when a leader like Nitish decided to align with him for 2015?” Tiwari has worked closely with both Lalu and Nitish. While speaking to The Indian Express, Tiwari said, “The Lalu-Nitish combination in 2015 meant a consolidation of OBC, Dalit and Muslim votes and the result was 178 of 243 seats.” He continued, “Nitish Kumar in NDA-II is no longer the same person or the leader. His support base of EBC, Dalit and Pasmanda (OBC) Muslims is not likely to remain with him. Nitish Kumar has made the upper castes people angry and I really do not expect them voting for his candidates in 2019. On the contrary, we sense that the upper castes have a soft corner for Lalu now.”
While speaking to The Indian Express, JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi, disregarded the argument of Lalu emerging stronger every time he goes to jail. Tyagi said, “Did the RJD tally not come down in every assembly poll since the 1995 elections? The only time Lalu surprised us was in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls when he got 22 seats. Ever since it has been a fall.” Tyagi further continued, “2015 victory was due to the joining of hands with Nitish. Wherever Nitish goes, he tilts the balance towards the winning combination.” Tyagi also added that RJD would not be the same force without Nitish. “Lalu has lost his face further. It will have to listen to the Congress at the national level,” Tyagi said.