The voices varied as Lalu Prasad Yadav was sentenced to three-and-a-half years after being convicted by a Ranchi court on December 23 last year in another of the fodder cases dogging him from the mid-1990s. While some have read out his political obituary others have spoken of it being too early to write him off.
The RJD chief sought leniency from the judge because of age and ailments but judge Shivpal Singh wryly remarked that an open jail is best for the convicts because they have experience in cow farming.
The judge had earlier said that he had received many phone calls from “Lalu’s men”. For what he did not specify, but Lalu has a following even in Jharkhand and there are those who are worried about his welfare behind bars.
In any case, open or shut jail, Lalu has nothing but time to ruminate on life in general and life behind bars in particular. A survivor through the thick and thin of politics, Lalu is not one to give up, that much can be sure.
Lalu’s core vote-bank of Yadavs has stuck with him and the BJP and JD(U) know this. His son Tejasvi has been given charge of the party in his absence and not only does the son look like Lalu he also comes out as someone who thinks like Lalu.
The BJP is not gloating at the sentence given to Lalu but BJP spokesman Aman Sinha did try to make it clear that the two sentences Lalu has got for two convictions in two fodder cases, they will not run concurrently but consequently. The longer Lalu stays behind bars, the easier for BJP and JD(U) to consolidate in the state.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has so far not spoken on the conviction of Lalu though the two had joined hands to form the current BJP government before Ntish pulled the rug from under Lalu’s feet by resigning and aligning with the BJP to form government.
This after Lalu’s RJD with more MLAs in the assembly let Nitish be CM. Lalu’s son Tejasvi was deputy CM but now he is just another MLA and with papa in jail a handicapped MLA.
The special CBI judge who convicted and sentenced Lalu could have sentenced Lalu to less than three years in which case Lalu could have applied for bail at the same court and walked. But Judge Shivpal Singh chose 3.5 years and let Lalu languish.
Earlier, after his conviction, Lalu had bickered that another high-profile accused and Congress ex-CM Jagannath Mishra was let off though the charges against him were the same. Now, Lalu will have to approach the Patna High Court for bail and that will take time.
And, then again, the HC may or may not grant him bail. In case he does not get bail he will remain behind bars for three and a half years and not even Lalu will have enough jokes to regale inmates and jail staff for that many years.
Lalu is the first parliamentarian (in his case ex-parliamentarian) in India to be convicted. The former Bihar chief minister’s days as an active politician were over even before he was convicted in this fodder case.
But outside he could have been at hand to lend his sons a hand to hold sway in the state. From inside jail he will find it difficult to do so and as the years take their toll he will have less of a clout in jail, too.
Parliamentarians of all parties will remember Lalu as a politician with the ability to keep them entertained even as he worked to stay relevant. His tenure as Railway Minister was much written about and he, for all the fodder of corruption thrown at him, was liked across party lines and by people inside and outside Bihar.
A Lalu spends his days in Birsa Munda Jail there will be people who will miss him for the man was unlike most politicians. He was ‘Different’.