(Eds: adding detail) Patna, Dec 3 (PTI) RJD founder Lalu Prasad, away in Ranchi serving sentences in fodder scam cases, was on Tuesday declared elected unopposed as the partys national president for the 11th consecutive term.
Prasads nomination papers were filed on his behalf, at RJD state headquarters here, by his sons Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav, who made a joint appearance putting aside the tug of war that was witnessed in the wake of the former having been anointed as the heir apparent despite being the younger of the two brothers.
Top leaders like national vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, national general secretary Kanti Singh and state president Jagadanand Singh all associated with the party since inception in 1997 were among those present besides MLA and close aide of the RJD supremo Bhola Yadav.
Talking to reporters on the occasion, Yadav who was flanked by his elder brother said 'we are here to do the needful on behalf of Lalu ji who is not physically amongst us but with whom each and every worker of the Rashtriya Janata Dal identifies himself'.
'He fought the battle of justice while playing various roles be it as the Chief Minister of Bihar or as the Railway Minister. He is facing tough times today, yet remains steadfast in his principles', Yadav said.
The RJD was formed in July 1997 by Prasad after breaking away from the Janata Dal.
The 71 years old charasmatic leader, who entered politics at Patna University as a student leader and was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1977 at the age of 29, has been president of the party continously since its establishment.
The 30-year-old Yadav sought to dismiss speculations that at one point of time he had sought to take over the mantle from his father and assert his supremacy in the party, saying 'I have already been assigned a role as the leader of the opposition in the state assembly. I am concentrating on the same'.
In an apparent reference to media reports stating that the Railways had made profits during his incarcerated fathers tenure and has been in dire straits afterwards, Yadav said 'people still remember the work done by Lalu'.
He also trained the guns at Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar, calling him 'a tired man, who is losing grip over the administration, causing the people of the state to suffer'.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi came out with a blistering attack on the opposition party over the development, saying the RJD should declare Prasad as 'national president for life, instead of the farce of conducting organizational polls'.
'Lalu Prasad has been awarded punishment by court in four cases of the fodder scam, which took place while he was the Bihar Chief Minister and which had brought shame on the state across the country.
'It is unfortunate that a person rendered disqualified for contesting even a village body poll, has been elected by a party as its national president for the 11th time', Modi a bete noire of the RJD supremo tweeted.
'He had to complete all the necessary formalities while behind bars but his supporters are behaving as if he has not been punished for corruption but for championing a noble cause. Instead of the repeated farce of organizational polls, the RJD might do well to declare him as the national president for life', remarked Modi in obvious disgust.
Notably, Modi was one of the petitioners on whose PIL the Patna High Court had in the 1990s ordered that cases relating to the fodder scam, involving fraudulent withdrawal to the tune of nearly Rs 1000 crore from the treasury, be handed over to the CBI.
A charge-sheet, followed by a stint in jail caused Prasad to vacate his chair in 1997 and install his wife Rabri Devi as the chief minister, who continued to hold the post till 2005.
In 2013, Prasad faced his first conviction but was soon out of bail which helped him lead his partys campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the assembly elections a year later.
Fresh convictions took place in other fodder scam cases between December, 2017 and January, 2018 and the RJD supremo has since then spent most of his time serving sentences barring a few months when he was out on conditional bail, first to attend Tej Pratap Yadavs marriage and then to get medical treatment. PTI NAC SNS SNS