When in jail, seek bail: Indian politician’s road to participating in elections

Manoj Chaurasia

Published: Updated:

A top Indian politician serving prison term in a corruption case has sought bail from the court so that he could prepare for the upcoming general elections due early next year.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad – who is currently serving prison sentence in the Ranchi Central jail in Jharkhand – hopes his party to do well in the elections after the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi suffered serious electoral reverses in the three key Indiana states at the hands of the principal opposition, the Congress party.

His bail petition reportedly mentioned that as president of his party, he is authorized to choose party candidates for various parliamentary seats. The RJD chief is learnt to have mentioned that without his signature, the Election Commission would not allocate symbols to the candidates. As per rules, this power cannot be given to any other person.

The RJD, a powerful regional party, enjoys strong support base among the masses in the twin states of Bihar and Jharkhand. The RJD with 80 lawmakers is the single-largest party in Bihar and was in power till July last year.

Prasad, a former Bihar chief minister who also served as a federal railway minister in the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, cannot contest elections after his conviction in the multi-billion dollar fodder scam.

Yet he is least worried. His mission now is to boost party’s morale, pick up suitable candidates and chalk out a poll strategy to defeat the rival BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

The RJD chief also has to carry out another important responsibility of finalizing the seat-sharing deal with its allies, which are a handful this time.

Unlike previous occasions, a number of parties are eager to join the Grand Alliance in Bihar. Right now, Congress and the Hindustani Awam Morcha are part of the alliance, which the RJD heads.

Lalu Prasad addressing an election rally in Bihar. (Supplied)
Lalu Prasad addressing an election rally in Bihar. (Supplied)

Health condition

Apart from political reasons, Prasad has also cited his critical health condition for seeking bail from the court. He is currently suffering from several types of ailments, which include chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure, Type-2 diabetes, depression and perianal abscess.

Prasad is currently admitted to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi, for treatment. “We have filed regular bail application citing various grounds,” Prasad’s lawyer Prabhat Kumar told the media.

According to the lawyer, none of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) witnesses ever pointed out toward direct involvement of Prasad in the fodder scam.

The 70-year-old leader is serving prison sentence since December 23 last year after his conviction in at least three cases of fodder scam. In May this year, he was granted provisional bail for six weeks by the court for his specialized treatment. In August this year, he surrendered before the court after his six-week period of bail expired.

Before being sent to jail in December last year, Prasad appointed his younger son Tejashwi Yadav as his political heir and later appointed his wife Rabri Devi as party vice-president to run the party affairs.

However, only Prasad can decide selection of candidates and distribution of party tickets as he is the head of the party. It will mean technical trouble for the party if the party chief doesn’t come out on bail ahead of the elections.

The first time he went to jail was in July 1997 while he was serving as the chief minister of Bihar. Before going to jail, however, he installed his wife Rabri Devi as the chief minister of Bihar as he ruled the state by proxy.

Rabri continued on the throne for the next eight years until the RJD was defeated in the 2005 state polls by the NDA headed by Nitish Kumar.