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Who took my seat? Lalu looks for space
Published on 11 Jul. 2009 11:07 PM IST
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Vanquished in the electoral arena of his home state Bihar, Lalu Prasad is jostling for space in the corridors of power here, while other leaders of his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) regret having snapped ties with the Congress during the elections. With the number of RJD MPs crashing from 24 in the 2004 elections to just four now, the former railway minister has lost his berth in the front benches of the Lok Sabha and has been forced to plead to the speaker to allot him a front-row seat. But he knows his demand is unreasonable, and has resigned himself to his fate. “I will follow the speaker’s direction. There is no problem in asking questions even from the back rows of the house,” Lalu Prasad told reporters Friday. The RJD has also lost its office in Parliament House -- it has been allotted to the Bahujan Samaj Party. Lalu Prasad met Speaker Meira Kumar and pleaded with her not take away the office that is still plastered with photographs of him and his wife Rabri Devi. As a cabinet minister in the last government, Lalu Prasad used to sit just behind Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in the previous Lok Sabha. Now his party’s MPs are yet to be allotted seats. They sit wherever there is space -- mostly in the back benches. “Baithne mein kya hain, jahan jagah khali milti hum baith jaate hain (What’s the big deal about sitting? We sit wherever there is space),” Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, former minister and Lalu Prasad’s close confidant, told IANS. Sitting in the office which they might need to vacate, Raghuvansh-babu, as he is popularly known, said irritably: “Is it an issue whether we have office space or not?” The party was okay with it, he quickly added. “We didn’t get the numbers, so we don’t have front bench and so we may not have office. That is the difference between victory and defeat; one who is born also dies; it is simple.” The usual norm in the Lok Sabha is to allot one front row seat to a party that has got 16 to 20 seats. As rural development minister in the last government, Raghuvansh Prasad had won accolades for his hard work in implementation of the Congress’ vote winning National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Today, he waxes nostalgic. Asked why the NREGA for which he toiled so hard did not give the RJD electoral dividends in Bihar, he shrugged: “That is a fraud played out by (Bihar chief minister) Nitish Kumar. It is a central scheme which the state government has to implement. He didn’t do it properly.” On the reasons for the party’s poor performance, Raghuvansh Prasad said: “There are 20 seats (in Bihar) where if you add the votes of the RJD and the Congress, it is more than that of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance, of which Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United is a constituent).” So was it a mistake to have snapped ties with the Congress? “Wahi hua hain, wahi to hain (this is what has happened),” Raghuvansh Prasad grimaced. “With these 20 seats, we would have won.”

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