The Rashtriya Janata Dal-led Mahagathbandhan will have to go into Bihar polls without its biggest star campaigner, Lalu Prasad Prasad, as he will remain in jail despite getting bail in one of the fodder scam cases in Ranchi.
The Jharkhand High Court on Friday granted bail to the 72-year-old leader in the Chaibasa treasury case of the Rs 950-crore animal husbandry scam, which was unearthed during his chief ministership in the undivided Bihar. The court granted him bail and directed him to submit two personal bonds of Rs 50,000 each and deposit penalty of Rs 2 lakh for securing bail. He has completed half of his five-year sentence in the case pertaining to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 33.67 crore from Chaibasa (now in Jharkhand) district treasury during 1992-93.
The news of bail granted to Lalu brought cheers to his supporters in his home state Bihar which is headed for a three-phase election from October 28. But it proved ephemeral when it became clear that he would not come out of jail because of another pending case related to fraudulent withdrawal from the Dumka treasury in which he has been convicted.
It will be the first assembly election in Bihar when Lalu will not be seen during the campaign. Known for using bucolic humour in his speeches at his rallies, he has been his party’s biggest crowd-puller over the years. In his absence, his son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav has an onerous task to lead the Mahagathbandhan in the ensuing polls.
The RJD, however, insists that Lalu’s absence will not make any difference in this election. “It does not matter if Lalu ji is in jail because he has become an ideology,” says party spokesman Mrityunjay Tiwari. “He remains the voice of the millions of the voiceless people who will vote for him in this election to oust the Nitish Kumar government.”
After being convicted in multiple fodder scam cases in 2013, Lalu has been rendered ineligible to contest any election, but he had taken part in the campaigning of all subsequent polls except the last Lok Sabha polls. Leading from the front, he managed to bring the RJD back into power in Bihar in 2015 with his alliance with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD-U and Congress. But Nitish walked out of the alliance in 2017, restored ties with the BJP, and formed a government with his erstwhile allies. He was in jail during the last year’s parliamentary elections, and his party failed to win any seat in Bihar.