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Tale of a master strategist's downfall

Source: PTI
November 22, 2005 14:25 IST
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Lalu Prasad Yadav, who changed the rules of the electoral game in Bihar for 15 years, failed to live upto his prediction in 1990 that he would rule for 20 long years, meeting his waterloo at the hands of his one-time close associate Nitish Kumar.

Complete Coverage: The Bihar Elections

Lalu was a known master strategist, who repeatedly overcame challenge to his vice-like grip over power by formulating a formidable MY (Muslim + Yadav) combine to make a mincemeat of his rivals using the plank of secularism to the hilt to consolidate his position both in Bihar and in Delhi.

A product of the total revolution movement launched by the late Jaiprakash Narain -- like his rivals Nitish Kumar and Lok Janshakti Party's Ram Vilas Paswan -- Lalu made it to the top in Bihar, thanks to the Mandal issue which transformed politics in North India.

Emerging as a messiah of the Backward classes and the minorities, Lalu gave honour and prestige to those deprived sections which were kept out of power for long since independence with upper castes calling the shots in the state politics.

What appears to have turned out to be the Achille's heel for Prasad was the perceived total neglect of development by Lalu which saw Bihar relegate in every sphere and continued to be a "BIMARU" state. The only industry that flourished in the state was one of kidnapping and extortion, his critics said, dubbing it as 'jungle raj'.

The irony was that Prasad, who boasted of turning the roads of Patna like the 'cheeks of Hema Malini,' neglected them so much that there were hardly any roads without big potholes in the capital city, leave alone other areas.  

He was even seen arguing in recent years that there was no need for roads for the poor people in the state seeking to belittle claims that BSP (Bijli, Sadak and Pani) issue would be his nemesis.  

Prasad, who over ten years back turned the strict restrictions imposed by the then no-nonsense Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan into a poll issue to emerge a winner, was clearly at the end of the tether this time when the Commission's pointman in Bihar, K J Rao,did 'another Seshan.'

Much water has flown since then with Prasad, embroiled in the fodder scam, spending months in jail and putting his wife Rabri Devi as chief minister some eight years back since the middle of 1997. She was at the helm till Feb this year.      

The RJD supremo was under pressure during the NDA rule at the Centre which expedited cases against him. It was during this period that Bihar was divided and a separate Jharkhand was formed, a development that helped Prasad.      

Prasad had the last laugh in the last Lok Sabha polls as he ensured heavy reverses for NDA in Bihar and Jharkhand and his RJD became the second largest party in the Congress-led UPA coalition at the Centre with he becoming the Railway minister.

But soon it appeared that the decline had begun for the Bihar strongman as the February polls turned a hung verdict and drove his party out of power in the state. Later he was blamed by his detractors for imposition of President's rule in the state.

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