At a time when the RJD was seemingly gaining ground it had lost in the state, by showing winning streaks in Maharajganj constituency in the by-polls, the conviction of Lalu Prasad has come as a major setback to the party.

Party activists and leaders sounded upset and uncertain about the RJD's future. Publicly, RJD leaders are putting up a brave face, saying that the party is united.

Some want Lalu Prasad's wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi to lead them. "We are all with Laluji in this time of crisis, the party is united and intact," RJD MP Ram Kirpal Yadav said. A senior RJD leader, Veena Shahi, urged Rabri Devi to lead the party.

"We know there is no alternate to Lalu but his popularity will increase now among his traditional supporters," she said.

The situation on the ground seems to be different. After the special CBI Court pronounces the quantum of punishment on Thursday, Lalu Prasad is expected to lose his membership in Parliament.

A senior RJD leader said that there has been no formal decision on whether a core committee would be formed to look after the party affairs.

"It is not an easy task to resolve, it is a big challenge for the party, its workers and leaders," he admitted. RJD activists fear that the Congress will now happily dump the party and go with Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar.

"After conviction, Lalu is not in a position to claim to be main rival to Nitish Kumar," another RJD leader said. In contrast, there is happiness in both the JD-U and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) camp.

Nitish Kumar has refused to say anything on the verdict. "I don't react to court verdicts."
BJP leaders have begun to eye Lalu's support base, particularly the Yadavs who has got a substantial presence in Bihar's aggregate population.

"Our party is the only force to gain (from this development)," BJP leader Giriraj Singh asserted. JD-U leaders hope that the state’s Muslim community will now be attracted towards their party, in parts, mainly due to Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP's prime ministerial candidate - Narendra Modi.

Will appeal in high court, says Lalu's son

Meanwhile, Lalu Prasad's eldest son Tejasavi Yadav said that the conviction of his father in a fodder scam case by a special CBI Court in Ranchi would be challenged in the High Court.

Tejaswi Yadav added that the matter would also be taken to the court of the people, in the elections. After Lalu Prasad was held guilty in the fodder scam case by the special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday, he was taken to the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi.

His son said an appeal for bail would be made. "We will appeal in the High Court against the order. We will also take up the issue in the people's court. We will give a fitting reply in the polls," Tejsavi told reporters after his father was taken to jail.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad, former Bihar chief minister Jagganth Mishra and 43 others were convicted on Monday in a fodder scam case by the special CBI Court.

Pravas Kumar Singh, special CBI Court judge, delivered the judgment. The court found all the 45 accused in the case guilty. The quantum of sentence will be announced on October 3, through video conferencing, the court said.

Talking to reporters, Prabhunath Singh, an RJD Lok Sabha member, told reporters, "Earlier through petition in the high court and later in the Supreme Court, Lalu Prasad had raised questions and doubted whether he would get justice. What was suspected has taken place."

Another RJD Lok Sabha member, Raghuvansh Prasad said, "The party will stay united and move ahead with collective responsibilities."

Besides Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra, both former chief ministers of Bihar, ministers of the department of animal husbandry, two IAS officers and others were accused in the fodder scam case of fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.70 crore from the Chaibasa district treasury.

After Jharkhand was carved out of southern Bihar in November 2000, Chaibasa district became part of the new state. Around 54 of the 61 cases in the fodder scam were transferred to Jharkhand. Different CBI courts have passed judgments in more than 43 cases and Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra are accused in five cases.

(Agencies)

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