After six months of waiting, Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV finally went on air on May 6, 2017.
On its first day, Republic TV aired an audio clip, which it claimed was a conversation between Lalu Prasad Yadav and former Siwan MP and criminal, Mohammad Shahabuddin, when he was in jail. In the clip, Lalu Yadav can allegedly be heard taking instructions from Shahabuddin on how cases of violence in Siwan need to be dealt with.
Republic TV also quoted Venkaiah Naidu saying that the tape had ‘shocked the nation’. He also congratulated Arnab for launching Republic TV. Another senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, said that Arnab had exposed how Lalu Yadav took orders from ‘dreaded criminal’ Shahabuddin and asked whether the Nitish Kumar government would take action against him.
In November 2016, Raj Kamal Jha, editor-in-chief of the Indian Express, had stated that ‘criticism from the government is a badge of honour’. However, what we witnessed on social and electronic media as part of the Republic TV’s launch is the exact opposite of what Raj Kamal had said. Almost everybody, especially those belonging to the BJP, seemed overjoyed at the launch of Republic TV.
‘The nation knows that’ Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a Bangalore-based MP and an ally of NDA has invested over ₹30 crore in Republic TV. Chandrasekhar also owns Asianet News Online Private Limited and has been the vice-chairman of the NDA in Kerala, since September 2016.
The ‘rapid-fire venom’ spat against Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar clearly defines the political inclination of Republic TV. Lalu Yadav has always been a staunch critic of the BJP’s and RSS’ Hindutva politics and has also been very vocal against Narendra Modi. After all, he stopped Advani’s rath from entering Bihar in 1990 and Modi’s rath in 2015. Nitish and Lalu’s ‘grand alliance’ has been perceived as a threat to the BJP since their defeat in 2015. Consequently, the BJP has been afraid of Lalu Yadav and his clout in Bihar.
On the other hand, Nitish Kumar is one of the contenders for the prime ministerial post in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Therefore, the BJP will try its best to malign his image in order to pave way for Narendra Modi’s second term as the Prime Minister. The fact that various BJP MLAs have been able to meet the Bihar governor quite frequently clearly shows that BJP has a strong strategy against the opposition.
Just like the BJP ‘rejected’ the mandate of the voters by forming governments in Manipur and Goa, they may also be trying to pull a similar stunt in Bihar. The BJP would want Nitish Kumar to break away from Lalu Yadav. If the BJP can somehow pull this off, then JD(U) will have to join hands with the BJP.
However, it’s highly unlikely that a leader who has prime ministerial ambitions would want to be a part of trivial and opportunistic politics. After all, in the previous election, the people of Bihar voted against the rise of what they considered to be regressive and fascist forces. They voted in favour of secularism, development and a progressive Bihar.
Initially, people feared that Lalu Yadav would surely take Bihar back to the days of jungle raj. They discussed how Nitish would manage to control Lalu. However, everything has turned out well. The BJP’s efforts to destabilise the Bihar government by any means, is not surprising at all, in this context.
The audio tape seems to have been a heaven-sent gift to Arnab Goswami to boost the channel’s TRP on its opening day. However, what we don’t know at all is whether the voice featured in the audio clip is that of Lalu.
If the accusations are somehow proved to be true and the central government and BJP MLAs pressurise RJD members to step down, then there will be a hung assembly and President’s rule may well be imposed in Bihar. This, in turn, will not only favour BJP in the mid-term polls but will also give them an upper hand going into the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Arnab has conveniently shifted the focus of his channel’s viewers on members of opposition parties, while ignoring the doubts and allegations that have been raised against a number of BJP members.
Sonia Gandhi was supposed to have called for a meeting with non-NDA party leaders after May 15, 2017, to finalise their candidate for the presidential election. The allegation against Lalu is also going to have an impact on this, since JD(U) and RJD are key political parties who will take part in the decision-making process.
Arnab Goswami must also expose the politician-mafia nexus in BJP-ruled states too. While Bihar has had a liquor ban for just about a year, Gujarat has been a dry state for many decades. Yet, we are well aware of the other problems faced by the state that have often been highlighted by the media.
Like any other individual, Lalu has also been a product of his circumstances. Things have changed in Bihar and in India, over the past two decades. Therefore, we can’t judge Lalu’s politics today by citing Bihar’s situation the 1990’s.
Moreover, he has never had the advantage of controlling or moulding his image in the media. The media has mostly depicted him as a man incapable of bringing about change and development. Moreover, when it comes to discussing ‘second chances’, I don’t know how one can deny Lalu another shot despite his involvement in scams, when the governments during the 2002 riots and the 1992 riots continued to stay in power or were able to rise again.
Perhaps, the single best achievement of Lalu Yadav is that he never allowed Bihar to be tainted by communalism. While people have the right to be biased against Lalu, they also need to view him beyond the common perceptions of misrule and corruption associated with him. After all, there are other things that matter – like secularism. It should be realised that the people of Bihar grew up, mostly, in a secular atmosphere.
Today, when people in various BJP-ruled states are killed for consuming beef, I’m proud that I belong to Bihar – a state that still resists the march of the BJP, due to the grand alliance of Lalu-Nitish.