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'Who Says Nitish Kumar Will Retire?'

May 28, 2024 13:04 IST
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'We made a mistake. We misunderstood. Now all is well.'

IMAGE: Lallan Singh, the current Janata Dal-United MP from Munger, is in Rajgir drumming up support for Kaushalendra Kumar, the incumbent MP and JD-U candidate from Nalanda, who confronts a tough challenge from Dr Sandeep Saurav of the CPI-ML. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/

Swarthy men dressed in shorts and track pants saunter in and out of the hotel lobby where we are staying in Rajgir. "Bouncers," whispers one of my traveling companions, a native of Bihar. To my quizzical look, he adds, "Bouncers with a politician." Outside, another group of men, similarly attired, emerge from a police jeep stationed in the parking lot.

I give it no further thought until the next morning when I spot a policeman dressed in blue with COMMANDO on his epaulettes and holding an intimidating automatic weapon stationed outside the landing on the first floor on my way to breakfast.

"Who is the politician staying in your hotel?" I ask the young man serving breakfast. "Lallan Singh," he replies, adding helpfully, "JD-U".

Until last December, Rajiv Ranjan 'Lallan' Singh was the national president of the Janata Dal-United. Then in what some observers denoted as a coup, in which he was made to step down so that Nitish Kumar could take over as JD-U national president.

One theory stated that Lallan Singh -- one of Nitish Kumar's oldest political associates -- had grown close to Rashtriya Janata Dal Founder Lalu Prasad Yadav, which made the Bihar chief minister jittery and anticipate that he would be jettisoned so that Tejashwi Yadav -- Lalu's younger son and then the deputy chief minister in the Mahagathbandan government -- could take over as CM.

The official line circulated about Lallan Singh's resignation was that he wanted to focus on winning the Lok Sabha election in Munger, which he had won in the 2019 general election after being defeated in 2014.

Within four weeks of Lallan Singh's exit as JD-U chief, Nitish Kumar broke away from the Mahagathbandan in Bihar -- cobbled up by the RJD and Congress with outside support from the Communists -- and aligned again with the Bharatiya Janata Party, an entity he had declared in January 2023 he would rather die than join hands with.

After Nitish Kumar's switch, Lallan Singh, who was seen as a forceful opponent of the BJP government in the Lok Sabha after the JD-U joined the Mahagathbandan in August 2022 and had declared that Narendra D Modi's exit from the national centre-stage would begin from Bihar, was now compelled to sing an aria to the BJP's presiding diety.

IMAGE: Lallan Singh has strong words for the "pati patni" (meaning Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi). Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/

Lallan Singh is just setting out from his first floor room, accompanied by JD-U MLAs, party officials and, of course, a phalanx of commandos, when we seek an interview. "Abhi samay nahin hain, hum kshetra ja rahe hain (I have no time. I am just setting for campaigning in the constituency)," he says, but gracefully agrees to speak to on his way to the car.

In this video shot by my senior colleague Rajesh Karkera, Lallan Singh speaks about why Tejashwi Yadav's 200 elecion rallies will make no difference to the outcome of the Lok Sabha election in Bihar, why the JD-U realigned with the BJP, and the current state of his relationship with Nitish Kumar.


Video: Rajesh Karkera/


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