Fissures in the RJD

Published : May 12, 2001 00:00 IST

THE process of disintegration of the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar has begun. Three of the seven RJD members in the Lok Sabha, Nagmani, Anwar ul Haque and Sukh Deo Paswan, have formed a separate group, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (Democratic), and sought the recognition of the Speaker. Dissident leaders Ranjan Prasad Yadav and Kumkum Rai, both Rajya Sabha members, were instrumental in the formation of the RJD (Democratic) in both Houses of Parliament. Informed sources in the dissident camp said that Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi had assured the new formation that its request would be considered.

The development unfolded immediately after Ranjan Prasad Yadav, who spearheaded the rebellion against RJD chief and former Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, was expelled from the party on April 28. Earlier Ranjan Prasad Yadav had been stripped of his post of working president of the party. By the dismissal Laloo Prasad sought to take the dissidents by surprise and take the battle into their camp by daring them to split the party. The dissidents had threatened to hold a meeting after the conclusion of the panchayat elections on April 30, in order to take stock of the situation in the light of the removal of Ranjan Yadav from the party post.

Laloo Prasad described as traitors Ranjan Yadav, once his closest "friend" and most trusted colleague, and the MPs who deserted the party. He told Frontline that they were playing into the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party and other communal forces that wanted to destabilise the RJD government. (The dissidents have been campaigning since February to remove the Rabri Devi government.)

It is learnt that the anti-Laloo group has already got the backing of the Samata Party and Union Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janashakti. Samata Party leader and Railway Minister Nitish Kumar made no secret of his support to the dissidents' efforts. Paswan offered his party's support for an alternative government in Bihar.

Nagmani said that once a new government was formed under the leadership of Ranjan Yadav, it would not be difficult to win the support of those opposed to Laloo Prasad's autocratic style of functioning.

In order to topple the Rabri Devi government, the rebels will require the support of one-third (or 39) of the 115 RJD members of the Legislative Assembly. The BJP and the Samata Party see the feud in the RJD as a positive development. They are committed to helping the breakaway group in its efforts.

The dismissal of Ranjan Prasad has not brought relief to Laloo Prasad as the rebel leader has emerged as a constant source of trouble to the RJD dispensation. Laloo Prasad has faced potentially dangerous revolts on numerous occasions in the past 11 years of the RJD rule. Politician of "uncanny wisdom and substantial mass following", he has so far succeeded in thwarting all attempts to cripple him politically. But Ranjan Yadav's challenge poses a real threat to Laloo Prasad's supremacy in Bihar, as the former is not without supporters in the party's State unit. Former Finance Minister Shankar Prasad Tekriwal, who resigned recently after criticising the Rabri Devi government and Laloo Prasad's style of functioning, and a few others in the legislature party are waiting for the "opportune moment" to strike.

During his four-year tenure as RJD working president, Ranjan Yadav "planted" a number of his supporters in the organisational set-up at the State and local levels. So much so that the RJD chief came under pressure from his loyalists on several occasions to expel the likes of Tekriwal. Reluctant to take action against the MLAs at this stage, Laloo Prasad constituted a "disciplinary committee" to keep a watch on the conduct of all party leaders.

Laloo Prasad is yet to assess the reaction that his action against the senior Yadav leader will generate among members of the Yadav caste. Yadavs and Muslims constitute the main support base of the RJD. Apparently weighed heavily by these issues, Laloo Prasad has decided to address a series of public meetings in various parts of the State from May 10 to convince supporters about the damage caused to the forces of social justice by Ranjan Yadav.

The RJD supremo's biggest problem is the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) sword that constantly dangles over his head. Caught in numerous fodder scam cases, Laloo Prasad is a worried person now. Moreover, he is falling short of trusted persons. Sharad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Singh deserted him long ago. Ranjan Yadav is the last of his "trusted" friends to part ways with him.

MEANWHILE, the arrest of Laloo Prasad in connection with three conspiracy angle cases relating to the fodder scam has become imminent as Governor Vinod Chandra Pande has agreed to grant sanction to the CBI by May 10 to prosecute Laloo Prasad, former Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra and two former Animal Husbandry Ministers Vidya Sagar Nishad and Chandradev Prasad Verma. In the event of his arrest, Laloo Prasad will be taken to Jharkhand State since most of the fodder scam cases originated there. The CBI has already moved the Special Court in Patna for transferring 52 of the 64 cases to Jharkhand. At least seven Special Courts have been set up in Jharkhand to dispose of the fodder scam-related cases.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi has made it clear that Laloo Prasad will not be provided with the kind of special facilities he had enjoyed during his stay in jail in Patna. "The Hazaribagh jail in Jharkhand is the place where Laloo Prasad will have to stay with ordinary criminals in accordance with the jail manual," Marandi said. The fear of such an eventuality is so great that the RJD convention adopted a resolution to condemn Marandi's statement.

If Laloo Prasad is incarcerated in the Hazaribagh jail, his hold over Patna will weaken considerably, providing great scope to the party's dissidents to take him on. The rebels are confident of success. Nagmani said: "The game has just started. Although we don't believe in taking revenge for the pounding we received, our supporters will be on our side more openly now." Laloo Prasad, however, put on a brave face: "I see a stronger RJD in future as I see my former colleagues standing shoulder to shoulder on a burning deck with Ranjan Yadav."

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