RJD leader Tej Pratap Yadav has started a campaign to press the demand for the release of his ailing septuagenarian father Lalu Prasad from custody in his characteristic maverick style. Yadav, the elder son of former chief ministers Prasad and Rabri Devi, on Thursday marched to the General Post Office here, along with hundreds of supporters who carried bundles of postcards addressed to President Ramnath Kovind seeking release of the jailed party supremo.
"We are here with lakhs of 'azadi patras' (petitions seeking freedom) in the interests of a socialist movement that is being undertaken in Bihar. We hope the President will heed the voice of the people," said Yadav, who is known to be a doting son to the RJD boss. Prasad, who is serving sentences in a number of fodder scam cases in Jharkhand, carved out of Bihar, is at present in Delhi undergoing treatment for multiple ailments.
In his late 70s, the leader, who had also served as the railway minister in the UPA-1 government, is a diabetic and suffers from a heart condition and kidney problems. He has been granted bail by the Jharkhand High Court in some of the cases but he needs to secure the same in a few others in order to be freed from custody. When asked about the campaign, RJD state spokesman Chitaranjan Gagan said, "It is, of course, a personal initiative of Tej Pratap Yadav but the party does back it since the matter involves our undisputed leader." The move, however, met with strong disapproval from BJP Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi, the former deputy chief minister of Bihar who has been the foremost bte noire of the proverbial "first family" of the RJD.
In a couple of tweets, he pointed out that Prasad was convicted after a "prolonged legal battle" and "legal wizards like Ram Jethmalani could neither save him from punishment nor help him get bail".
In an indirect reference to Tej Pratap Yadav having been overshadowed by his younger brother Tejashwi, Modi added "the sidelined prince of RJD is now trying to create mistrust in the judiciary by the gimmickry of sending two lakh postcards to the President".
Modi also referred to the RJD's dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls of 2019, when it drew a blank, and Prasad's attempts to topple the NDA government after the recent assembly elections, in which the party won the maximum number of seats but the coalition helmed by it fell short of getting majority. An official of the postal department said postcards found to be in order will be dispatched.
"This episode is amusing and puzzling. But the postal department will have to do its job. Postcards found to be in order will be dispatched. Others will go back to the senders," said a department official requesting anonymity.