This is for the first time that Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) President Lalu Prasad is not taking active part in the general elections. But his party is leaving no stone unturned to keep the RJD patriarch connected to the Lok Sabha polls in one form or another.
Ironically, the man who used to spearhead his party's election campaign till sometime ago, is now languishing in jail 300 km from Patna.
Lalu Prasad has been sentenced in four fodder scam cases by different special CBI courts in Ranchi and is in prison there from December 2017. However, the convicted RJD leader is now admitted to the paying ward of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) there for various ailments.
While filing her nomination on Friday, Misa Bharti, the RJD chief's daughter and the grand alliance candidate from the Patliputra Lok Sabha constituency, clutched on to a photograph of Lalu Prasad right through the nomination process.
She said she was feeling the absence of his father, whose ideals were still conveyed to the party workers and voters alike.
A few days ago, Lalu Prasad even conveyed his thoughts through an open letter to lift the morale of the party workers. He is also keeping a close connect with them via social media being operated by his team. The RJD supremo is also not missing any opportunity to target the opposition leaders via Twitter.
Just before the Lok Sabha elections, Lalu Prasad's autobiography,
Gopalganj to Raisina: My Political Journey, was released, helping him stay in the thick of discussions.
The co-author of the book and journalist Nalin Verma said: "Lalu Prasad knows the value of time. Since he has been put behind the bars, RJD is lacking a strong leader. While the party workers are trying hard to convey his message to the people, it remains to be seen how effective their efforts would be."
Lalu Prasad's son Tejashwi Yadav and wife Rabri Devi have been busy on Twitter, trying to garner sympathy for the jailed RJD chief.
"The BJP government wants to poison Laluji at the hospital. They are not allowing any family member to meet him for months now. The government of India has gone mad. If the people in Bihar take to the streets, the consequences will be very bad," Rabri Devi had tweeted.
While Tejashwi Yadav is driving the RJD ship this time in the absence of his father, he had to face difficulty in distributing tickets as well as arriving at a seat-sharing arrangement with the party's allies.
It is said that while the top leaders of the party assembled at former chief minister Rabri Devi's residence at 10 Circular Road in Patna to finalise the candidates, the final approval came from Lalu Prasad.
According to RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari: "It's not just the party, but the whole of Bihar is feeling the absence of Lalu Prasad. His being in jail is a big political loss for the scores of party workers functioning at different levels."The opposition, however, denied the existence of the old "Lalu magic." Janata Dal (U) spokesman Neeraj Kumar said: "Bihar's politics has changed no matter how hard the RJD tries to keep Lalu Prasad connected to the elections. The voters here know why Lalu Prasad is lodged in jail."