Patna: A day after a court convicted RJD leader Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam, his wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi may head the party again, party sources said Tuesday.
This is the dominant view in the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) although party leaders admit that the situation may not be an exact repeat of 1997 when too Rabri Devi headed the party after Lalu Prasad was jailed.
When Lalu Prasad announced in 1997 that his wife -- who until then had kept away from politics -- would be the chief minister in his absence, the RJD was not really comfortable with the idea.
"But everything proved very smooth contrary to widespread fears," senior RJD leader Anwar Ahmad told IANS. "She ran the government with the help of senior party leaders."
Another RJD leader, Ramkirpal Yadav, echoed this view. "Rabri Devi will lead the party."
A special CBI court in Ranchi Monday convicted Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam. The sentencing will take place Thursday.
But political activist Anish Ankur admitted that the Rabri Devi saga may turn out to be different this time.
"The situation is different. When she became chief minister, the RJD was in power. Now the party is in the opposition."
RJD MP Jagdanand Singh denied that the party would disintegrate in the absence of Lalu Prasad.
"Even during earlier times, the party emerged stronger after similar crises," he said.
Jagdanand Singh made it clear that the RJD will function under a collective leadership.
Rabri Devi has reportedly said that as the RJD was founded by Lalu Prasad, only family members will run the show in his absence.
But no one appears to be eager to hand over the RJD's charge to Lalu Prasad's younger son Tejashwi, who is otherwise regarded as his father's political heir.
"Senior party leaders have no problems working under Rabri Devi but they have strong reservations about Tejashwi," a RJD leader said.
But the broad view in the RJD is that Lalu Prasad's conviction is a major blow.
The development has come ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, and at a time when the party was trying to prove its worth again following a split in the BJP-JD-U camp.