Now that RJD chief Lalu Prasad has accommodated both his sons, Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejhashwi Prasad Yadav in the Nitish Kumar ministry and in fact, the younger son is deputy CM, one question in everyone’s mind is this–can Lalu Prasad surprise political pundits and commoners and for how long?
Everyone knows that Lalu Prasad, once the king who had to settle for the role of kingmaker’s job, has 80 MLAs as against JD (U)’s 71. But Lalu Prasad has not mentioned this arithmetic even once, not even in passing reference or casual conversation.
Lalu Prasad had two tasks to accomplish with this comeback – establish his two sons in Bihar politics, get acceptability for them from RJD seniors and make himself relevant in national politics even though it is Nitish Kumar who has emerged strongly as potential nucleus of anti-Narendra Modi politics.
Lalu Prasad, who has announced that he would visit the PM’s Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi, can remain nationally relevant by raising his usual secular versus communal pitch against the BJP. The JD (U) would be happy with this role of the RJD chief.
The real challenge for Nitish Kumar would begin when the new government gets going and new projects start running aground. Bureaucrats now have to do a fine balancing job between two masters, one unofficial. MLAs, who often had complained about the bureaucracy prevailing over elected representatives will see how Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar deal with the issue.
There has been a lot of talk about Lalu Prasad calling the shots but Lalu Prasad also knows that Nitish Kumar cannot be a rubber stamp. Nitish has hinted more than once that he would run the government in his own way.
The first six months will show us how things unfold. It would all depend on the expectations Lalu Prasad has of Nitish Kumar and to what extent Nitish Kumar can take the pressure. The RJD chief has pangs of remaining out of power in state for a decade and the value of hard-won victory in combination with Nitish and Congress. He cannot fritter it away. He also knows Nitish may well have the BJP option remote as it may be, so he has no option other than Nitish for now.
It has to be seen if Lalu Prasad thinks of the long-term political investment or short term gains. Lalu has not given any signs either way so far.