'Lalu understands that his words can be used by rivals to consolidate Hindu votes which may damage the prospects of his party's social support base.'
It is probably for the first time in over three decades that the Rashtriya Janata Dal's vocal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has maintained total silence on communal disturbances in Bihar.
Nearly two weeks after communal disturbances were reported in Bihar Sharif, the district headquarters of Nalanda, and Sasaram, the district headquarters of Rohtas, where stands the tomb of medieval king Sher Shah Suri, who challenged early Mughal rulers, Lalu is yet to break his silence.
Never before has Lalu remained silent on communal violence in the state, or elsewhere in the country.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has repeatedly claimed that the communal violence was part of a conspiracy to disturb harmony in the state.
Kumar said investigations into the violence is underway and announced that stern action will be taken against those involved in the communal disturbances during the Ram Navami processions on March 31 and April 1.
Though Kumar did not name any political party or organisation, the police began action against some Bajrang Dal and VHP leaders in Bihar Sharif who surrendered to the police last week.
The Bihar police's Economic Offences Unit identified viral social media posts in Nalanda and booked some of those behind it for spreading fake information to create communal trouble.
"We have failed to understand what is stopping Laluji from saying something on it. Laluji had never missed a chance to target communal forces," says an RJD leader
Lalu has been known for his consistent stand against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party since the early 1990s.
He is probably the only leader who did not join hands with the BJP and has been vigorously attacking the BJP for its communal politics.
Lalu had repeatedly said in recent months that the BJP wants to destroy the country by pitting Hindus and Muslims against each other.
He even demanded a ban on the RSS last September.
"It is difficult to imagine Lalu's silence on communal disturbances as he is known for fighting communal forces since he became CM for the first time in 1990. What led him to not speak this time," wonders a social activist.
Political commentator Arun Srivastav says that an ailing Lalu, who has been keeping a distance from active politics, is taking care of the political interests of his younger son Tejashwi Yadav.
Sensing that the issue can cause polarisation on the ground, Lalu appears to have decided to keep silent this time.
"Lalu might be under pressure not to say anything that may harm the political interests of Tejashwi, who will be facing a big challenge in 2024 when the RJD will have to perform well. In the last Lok Sabha polls, the RJD failed to win a single seat," says Srivastav.
"Lalu understands that his words can be used by rivals to consolidate Hindu votes which may damage the prospects of his party's social support base, as the socio-political ground has changed in recent years," Srivastav adds.
Lalu, who is currently in Delhi where he is recovering after a kidney transplant operation last year, neither used social media nor issued any statement on the communal disturbances.
His wife, former CM Rabri Devi, who is an RJD MLC, blamed the RSS and BJP for the communal disturbances.
After communal violence erupted in Sasaram and Bihar Sharif, Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav targeted the 'Sanghis' attempt to disrupt the state's harmony'.
Till date, 141 individuals have been arrested in connection with the communal disturbances and 15 FIRs lodged in three police stations in Bihar Sharif.
"The police have interrogated 39 after taking them on remand. They have revealed more information about the planning behind the communal violence," says a senior police official at the police headquarters.