It had always been an uncomfortable alliance of convenience for both parties. Now that the Rashtriya Janata Dal is riding a perceived resurgence in Bihar, party chief Lalu Prasad is not likely to be seen sharing the dais with big names from its “junior” partner in the state, the Congress.
With two-thirds of polling over in Bihar, the RJD says chances of Rahul or Sonia Gandhi sharing the stage with Lalu for the next phase of polls are as good as nil. Not all partymen are said to be not keen on this but Lalu, rather than listing achievements of the UPA-II government, has been raising the pitch of “saving the secular fabric of India from communal forces” at election rallies.
“Laluji is campaigning on his own. He is addressing at least four rallies a day. In such a schedule it has not been possible to go for joint campaigning with top leaders of the Congress. And frankly, now that we have reached the concluding phase of polling, there is no possibility,” said Manoj Jha, national spokesman of the RJD.
Sources said with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi making a public spectacle of tearing up a draft ordinance that could have saved Lalu’s political career by allowing convicted politicians to contest polls, the RJD cadres are not favourably inclined towards Rahul and Lalu sharing the dais.
The Congress is left to explain the absence of Lalu in its high-profile rallies and dismiss talks of a “discomfort” between the two allies.
“It’s a problem of schedules of Laluji and Rahulji and Soniaji not matching. That is why joint campaigning has not been, and will not be, possible. But that does not mean there is a problem with the alliance,” says Ashok Choudhary, Bihar Congress chief.
Lalu has campaigned for Congress candidates in Aurangabad, Sasaram and a couple of other places. Sonia shared the dais with RJD candidates earlier this month. The two have not, however, been seen together, giving the JD(U), the BJP and even the LJP the opportunity to call the Congress-RJD alliance “fragile”.
Despite Lalu’s conviction in the fodder scam and a host of party seniors, notably Ram Kripal Yadav, joining the BJP, the RJD is projecting itself as a credible antidote to the perceived “Modi wave”.