Lalu Yadav begins to make contingency plans for RJD: who will lead the party?
With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well as Enforcement Directorate (ED) on his trail, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav appears to be reconciling to the possibility of a decisive swoop down on him by agencies.
The former Bihar chief minister looks to have started setting back-up plans in motion for his party in case he is unable to continue steering it in an active capacity.
With 80 MLAs, RJD is still the largest party in the Bihar Legislative Assembly and Yadav is reportedly concerned about what will happen to its flock if it has to face his absence. It was possibly against this background that an emergency party meeting of sorts was recently organised in Patna.
Yadav himself was absent from this meeting as he and his younger son Tejashwi Yadav have been camping in New Delhi, possibly preparing for their rendezvous with the CBI. The agency had been sending summons to the father-son duo for a while but they had expressed their inability to present themselves for questioning.
Lalu was finally questioned for several hours at the CBI headquarters in Delhi on 5 October. Tejashwi was also questioned on 6 October.
In Patna, the RJD meet was held at the residence of Yadav's wife Rabri Devi. It was attended by the Yadav couple's elder son Tej Pratap Yadav and senior party leaders like Jagdanand Singh, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, state president Ram Chandra Purbe and Chandrika Rai. However, all eyes were on Rabri and it appears this was not merely because she was temporarily in charge.
A key decision taken by the party has gone largely unnoticed but in it lies an indication of an imminent rise in Rabri's responsibilities. Organisational polls were to be held in January 2018, but the party has recently decided to hold the polls much earlier, on 20 November. The main objective is to elect the next party chief by that date.
Keeping it within the family
Party sources told Catch it is quite possible that Rabri may be elected the next president, replacing her husband. The move has been taken to help the party make it through the impending crisis that may befall in the event of Lalu's arrest.
If Tejashwi too is arrested, that will be a double whammy as his father has already indicated his preference for the younger son as his heir.
Sources said Lalu believes that it is Rabri whom all party MLAs, leaders and workers will look up to in his and Tejashwi's absence. She has already officiated as the chief minister for eight years earlier, when Lalu was first sent to prison in the fodder scam. Since then, she has only involved herself more and more in politics and party affairs, also serving as leader of RJD's legislature party and Leader of Opposition.
Her taking the mantle from her husband will also give Lalu more time in handling a subdued fight for succession that many believe is brewing between Tej Pratap Yadav. Though Tej recently publicly announced that Tejashwi will be the party's leader in the future and the rest of the party his charioteers, he has reportedly been asserting his own position in the party.
If these reports are true, then Lalu will clearly be in a dilemma and presently unable to officially anoint Tejashwi as his successor. By getting Rabri to helm the party in his own absence, Lalu might be hoping to get more time to settle the succession issue. Tejashwi will certainly have the upper hand if the agencies let him go.