SERVING out his prison term at the Ranchi Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), where he has been staying since May 2018, the man who has been synonymous with Bihar politics for four decades is away from the heat and dust this time. Even son and political heir Tejashwi Yadav is accused by rivals of downplaying the Lalu Prasad influence.
However, the 72-year-old is watching the action closely. “Laluji is watching news on TV all the time, even while having meals. He doesn’t read newspapers much… He sometimes asks nurses to read out headlines,” says an official of the Birsa Munda Central Jail, Ranchi, where Lalu is supposed to be lodged, who paid a routine visit to him less than a week ago.
The official adds, “When I went to the hospital ward, he was eating lunch and watching Tej Pratap Yadav (his elder son who is fighting from Hasanpur, which will vote on November 3) address a rally. Easy lag rahe the (he looked calm)… His body language was relaxed.”
Lalu has been serving consecutive jail terms since December 2017 since his conviction in cases of fodder scam dating back to his term as CM of undivided Bihar in 1990s. He has spent most of his term at the RIMS, where he is being treated for multiple ailments.
With the RJD facing a make-or-break election, its founder-president, it seems, is more than hopeful. “Laluji is confident of a grand victory of the Grand Alliance,” Jharkhand RJD youth president Abhay Singh said. “He says sarkaar mera hi aayega… Jitni der jage rehte hain, chunav prachar hi dekhte hain. Thoda bhi vyakul nahin hain, swasth hain (He says it’s our government that will come… All the time he is awake, he is following the election news. He is not at all anxious, he is healthy).”
The jail official says Lalu doesn’t have a cellphone, and that visitors are allowed once a week. A few days ago, some party workers visited him. While Tejashwi, the CM face of the RJD-led alliance, his daughters and wife Rabri Devi came more than two months ago, the officer says, Tej Pratap visited a month ago. “Laluji was waiting for him anxiously, asking people if there was a word from him… His samdhi Jitendra Yadav also came to see him from UP.”
Jitendra Yadav, who met Lalu for a few hours in the third week of September, says Lalu looked healthy “but his sugar was out of range on the day”. “I do not talk politics with him. I meet him as a relative. I see him every few months.” One of Lalu’s daughters is married to Jitendra Yadav’s son.
Tejashwi has been saying at rallies that Lalu will be out of jail on November 9, and it will be Nitish Kumar’s vidaai (farewell) the next day, on November 10, when the election results are declared. Lalu’s counsel Prabhat Kumar says they are confident of this. “Laluji has already served half of his jail sentence — three-and-a-half years — in the Chaibasa treasury and Deoghar treasury cases and was granted bail in those cases on that ground. Now, in the Dumka treasury case (embezzlement of Rs 3.13 crore), he is set to complete 50% of his sentence of 7 years. We will file bail application when the Jharkhand High Court reopens on November 2, after the Durga Puja vacation, and most likely he will be out of jail on November 9.”
Is he looking at arguably the greatest homecoming for a politician? The RJD hopes so.
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