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The loneliness of Lalu

As Sadhu Yadav was being inducted into the Congress in Delhi,a veteran party leader walked around restlessly at the Congress’s Patna office at Sadakat Ashram....

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
March 25, 2009 11:50:39 pm

As Sadhu Yadav was being inducted into the Congress in Delhi,a veteran party leader walked around restlessly at the Congress’s Patna office at Sadakat Ashram,once associated with the first President of India,Dr Rajendra Prasad. “Ashram ko Sadhu mil gaya aur Sadhu ko ashram (The Bihar Congress has got a leader and Sadhu has got an abode),” he mumbled.

For all his antics,notoriety and controversies,the Congress that’s hoping to make a new beginning in Bihar realises the worth of having a Sadhu. Having rejected all peace offerings to lock horns with RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav,it has got a potent tool to embarrass him in the shape of his brother-in-law.

Having never anticipated that he would find himself so alone before the elections,Lalu is indeed on the backfoot. He has told the media not to refer to Sadhu as his “brother-in-law”,and on Monday,abruptly ended a press conference when pestered on the issue.

In other times,a Sadhu decision to part ways may even have been welcomed by Lalu,who has been trying to contain the anger within the RJD of his running a “sasural” party. Sadhu’s open defiance in fielding his wife Indra against the official RJD candidate in the February 2005 Assembly election in Gopalganj — leading to both losing — had even turned sister Rabri Devi against him.

She has been quick to attack Sadhu this time,calling his decision to leave the party “good riddance”. Rabri,who earlier diverted all storms headed Sadhu’s way,regretted that having become an MP because of the RJD,he now says the party had given him nothing.

However,what Lalu perhaps didn’t bargain for was that along with inducting Sadhu,the Congress would take its demand for more seats in Bihar all the way to actually fighting him in the state.

The Congress decision to field OBC and Muslim candidates will cut into Lalu votes. On the other hand,the NDA — led in the state by a rejuvenated JD(U) — may not suffer much as the Congress has fewer upper caste candidates.

“Lalu’s attention has been diverted from arch-rival NDA to the Congress,” observes political analyst Srikant (he uses only one name). In a situation where 2-3 per cent votes can tilt the balance in a front’s favour,the Congress getting even 5 per cent votes could hurt the RJD badly. This will work to the NDA’s advantage.

Of the 22 seats for which the Congress has announced candidates,it has fielded upper castes on 11 seats where it doesn’t have much of a chance. Of the remaining 11 where it could give the RJD a run for its money,Yadavs have been nominated on five and OBC or Muslim candidates on the rest.

Realising the high command’s new seriousness in the state,the state Congress is lining up behind Sadhu,with state party in-charge Iqbal Singh calling him a “great leader”. Adds Congress leader Umakant Singh: “Sadhu’s rebellion against Lalu is more than symbolic. An embittered Sadhu can go to any extent to carve a political space for himself and will use Lalu’s language against Lalu.”

A wary RJD is worried at how the Congress will play this out before the electorate. “Lalu may be talking of the RJD getting pure with Sadhu leaving the party. But the fact remains that Laluji has been challenged on the home front,giving a wrong message to voters,” says a party leader.

Sadhu himself is not shy of a fight. According to sources,he asked the Congress for seven seats where he wanted to put up own nominees,besides taking on the Lok Janshakti Party’s Prakash Jha from West Champaran (known as Bettiah before delimitation) himself. Jha and Sadhu have been at loggerheads since the release of the director’s Gangajal,which had a villain by the name of Sadhu. The Congress agreed to two of those names — Girdhari Yadav from Banka and Ramai Ram from Gopalganj.

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