Ram Vilas Paswan & Lalu Prasad: Desperate opportunists

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In India, some politicians become important figures during elections, the standings of their parties in the legislature notwithstanding. In 2014, two such political figures are Ram VRilas Paswan of the Lok Janshaki Party (LJP) and Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Both these politicians had a terrible electoral experience in 2009, particularly Paswan whose party couldn't win a single seat.

Lalu Prasad, on the other hand, didn't do great either and his recent disqualification as an MP after being convicted in the fodder scam has given a heavy blow to the former chief minister of Bihar.

Paswan & Lalu: Desperately trying to remain relevant

But yet these two politicians from Bihar haven't given up and are in the thick of things ahead of the upcoming national polls. Lalu Prasad even told a major English news channel that he is still optimistic about becoming the prime minister of India, something which he had often said before polls in the past.

One won't be surprised if Lalu too follows Paswan in near future

Paswan has decided to form an alliance with the BJP and the latter has even left seven seats for his LJP. The same Paswan had left the BJP after the 2002 Gujarat riots and now is ready to return to the saffron party's alliance which has picked Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. Ironical?

Actually it is not. Paswan had held important portfolios in central governments led by various parties and the lack of any ideological tilt never caused him any problem from taking an opportunistic step. The decision of pulling out of the NDA in the wake of the Gujarat riots was a nationwide behavioural pattern for various parties eager to gain a moral high ground and Paswan was no different. But now, the riots are a distant past and Paswan, in order to remain relevant in Indian politics, must find an ally in either the Congress or the BJP.

Morality doesn't matter for these politicians who advocate social empowerment

Given the former's poor condition, Modi is the automatic choice as an ally. Paswan's politics resembles that of Mayawati, another messiah of the Dalits. Mayawati still is a powerful force in Uttar Pradesh, but for Paswan, it is a challenge even to remain alive in Bihar politics and the decision to back the BJP is an effort to fill in the vacuum created in the state following the ruling JD(U)'s divorce with the NDA and the fall of Lalu Prasad. The BJP's focus on Dalit votes and the rising popularity of Modi in the state have bolstered Paswan. The responsibility of a big ministry in nthe 16th Lok Sabha (the railways will be a huge gain) and Paswan will be more than happy.

For Lalu Prasad, however, there are some seats to lose and he can't really jump into Modi's fold right away (at least till now). Lalu Prasad, who recently came out of jail, criticised Paswan for joining the BJP's alliance but himself is heavily depending on the Congress's nod for a pre-poll arrangement despite making assertive gestures towards the gallery.

Lalu Prasad needs Congress today and can go towards Modi tomorrow as well

The ageing leader who had once created a sensation in the Indian political scene by mastering the politics of (pseudo)secularism and social empowerment is a shadow of the past and requires assistance from the Congress to remain relevant. The RJD chief still symbolises the politics of differentiation between the 'secular' and 'communal' and can't reverse the story that he had scripted in 1990 when he had halted the chariot of LK Advani to emerge as a secular messiah.

However, nobody can really guarantee what the RJD chief can do if his natural ally, the Congress, faces a drubbing in this election. Opportunism is the end word for these regional satraps and only central ministries can keep them alive in national politics.

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