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Saturday, 26 February, 2000, 22:06 GMT
Analysis: Bihar's pivotal politician

By the BBC's Yubaraj Ghimire

The Rashtriya Janata Dal headed by Laloo Prasad Yadav has emerged as the single largest party in India's northern state of Bihar.

Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav Mr Yadav: One of India's most colourful politicians
The results indicate the rehabilitation of Mr Yadav who has dominated the politics of the state for the last decade.

Widely regarded as one of India's most colourful politicians, he faces a string of corruption allegations. Yet the success of the RJD means that Mr Yadav will almost certainly play a pivotal role in forming the next government in Bihar, one of India's most lawless states.

Laloo Prasad Yadav became Bihar's chief Minister in March 1990 and was the first to complete a five year term in government in more than three decades. However, he had to resign in the second year of his second term after he was implicated in a multi-million dollar corruption case, known as the fodder scandal.

Wife's role

In spite of this he succeeded in effectively keeping control of power in the state, by ensuring that his apolitical wife Rabri Devi took over as chief minister. As the corruption cases against him mount, there is a possibility that he will let his wife continue her stint as chief minister as he awaits the verdicts of numerous court cases.

Mr Yadav's rise as a leading political figure in Bihar and in India coincided with a remarkable political phenomenon in the country throughout the 1990s: the emergence of backward caste politicians in national and state politics. At the same time there was a rise of Hindu nationalism represented by the BJP, a development fiercely opposed by the Congress and Communist parties.

Although he belongs to none of these camps, Mr Yadav firmly subscribes to the view that the BJP is a party of religious intolerance. He has been in the forefront of the campaign for what is called secular politics.

As Chief Minister of Bihar, he arrested India's present Home Minister L K Advani in October 1990 while he was campaigning for a temple to be built on the site of a mosque in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Mr Advani's arrest deepened the divide between the BJP and Mr Yadav whose re-emergence in the latest state assembly polls is a political blow for the BJP-led government at the centre.

Meanwhile commentators say that despite repeated criticism of Mr Yadav by the Communist and the Congress parties for his alleged corruption, their more immediate goal is to deny the BJP access to government in as many states as possible. That is only possible if they support Mr Yadav's party in Bihar.

As the state faces a hung assembly, the prospect of an unstable government once again looms. Many people fear that will lead to more compromises, more corruption and less development.
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See also:
11 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Guide to Indian state elections
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