Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Bihar bypolls: Lalu hints at thaw with Congress before hitting campaign trail


Patna, October 27

RJD president Lalu Prasad on Wednesday hinted at a thaw between his party and the Congress, saying had a telephonic talk with Sonia Gandhi whom he asked to hold a meeting of “like-minded” parties which could join hands to take on the BJP.

Prasad was talking to journalists before departing for election rallies in Tarapur and Kusheshwar Asthan assembly seats, where bypolls are scheduled for October 30.

“Sonia Gandhi enquired about my well-being. I told her I am fine,” said the septuagenarian leader, underscoring his personal equation with the Congress president which has kept the RJD-Congress alliance afloat in the choppy waters of politics.

“I also said that she is the leader of a party with an all-India presence and she should convene a meeting of all like-minded parties which are opposed to the BJP,” said Prasad, whose party recently snubbed the Congress with its unilateral decision to contest by-polls to both the seats.

The Congress had reacted with uncharacteristic aggression, with the AICC in-charge of Bihar Bhakt Charan Das asserting that his party, which has fielded its own candidates for the two seats in the by-poll, will contest all 40 Lok Sabha seats in the next general elections.

Later, Prasad addressed the rally in Tarapur where huge crowds had turned up to catch a glimpse of the colourful leader who was addressing an election meeting after a gap of six years.

Prasad claimed that the RJD-led Grand Alliance had, in the assembly polls last year, fallen short of majority because of “beimaani” (rigging) and that had he not been away in jail, serving sentences in the fodder scam, “they (pliant officials) would not have dared to do so”.

He also seethed at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, his arch rival, who had the previous day said that the RJD supremo “could get me killed”, a sarcastic reference to the former CM’s reputation for strong-arm tactics.

“Why do I need to kill him? I have said that I have come to complete his visarjan (political annihilation). He will be finished because of his own deeds. He betrayed us and sided with the BJP though the RJD had helped him return to power in 2015. His prohibition law is a sham,” said Prasad, who, along with wife Rabri Devi, had ruled the state for 15 years on the trot.

The former Railway minister also fumed at the high rate of inflation, blaming it on the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and pointing out “today, you have to cough up Rs 50 for buying a platform ticket. This was unthinkable in my time”.

The RJD president is scheduled to sign off his electioneering with a rally at Kusheshwar Asthan, a reserved seat that became the bone of contention between his party and the Congress, which has been unsuccessfully contesting from there.

The RJD hopes it will break the jinx with its imaginative play of the caste card. It has fielded a candidate belonging to the Musahar community which has a sizeable presence in Kusheshwar Asthan but remains politically under-represented.

The party, by fielding a Musahar candidate, also hopes to dilute the age-old animosity in the area between Dalits and Yadavs – the castemen of Prasad – which could come in handy amid the state’s rapidly changing political landscape.



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