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    Lalu turns 73, RJD decides no cake cutting

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    Patna/Ranchi: Jailed RJD supremo Lalu Prasad turned 73 on Thursday, but there was no cake cutting on his birthday as decided by the party in view of the pains suffered by migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Prasad is serving jail sentences in fodder scam cases and is currently lodged in a Ranchi hospital on account of his poor health.

    It used to be a big occasion for the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in the past, but the party decided that it will not cut a cake on Prasad's birthday this year and instead, observe it as "Garib Samman Diwas".

    Prasad's wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi greeted her husband on his birthday while Tejashwi Yadav, the couple's younger son, visited the RJD supremo at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi.

    Elder son Tej Pratap Yadav offered prayers at the Badi Patan Devi temple in Patna for his father's well-being.

    Several RJD leaders and workers, who gathered at Rabri Devi's 10, Circular Road residence in Patna, wished good health and happiness to the ailing party chief.

    Meanwhile, a photograph posted on the social media showed Prasad cutting a cake at the RIMS in the presence of Tejashwi.

    Tejashwi has been chosen as Prasad's heir apparent and the RJD's chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming Bihar Assembly election.

    A report from Ranchi said the young leader met his father at the RIMS and took his blessings on the occasion.

    "Tejashwi, who reached Ranchi on Wednesday evening, has met his father at the RIMS and taken his blessings," RJD leader from Jharkhand Asutosh Ranjan said.

    "We will be feeding at least 73,000 poor people on my father's birthday and will try to lessen their concerns. We will take Bihar out of all the problems, drawing inspiration from my father," Tejashwi said in a letter to people on his father's birthday.

    Though there will be no cake cutting this time by the family or the RJD, if party workers feel, they can do so and distribute the cakes among the poor, he added.

    "He (Prasad) is fighting unflinchingly and tirelessly against injustice to poor. I feel proud that I am also the part of his fight," the leader of opposition in the Bihar Assembly said.

    Prasad, a former Bihar chief minister who also served as the railway minister in the UPA-1 government, has been behind bars since December, 2017 in cases related to the fodder scam in the 1990s in Bihar, when money was fraudulently withdrawn from treasuries in the name of supplying fodder to animals by the animal husbandry department.

    Rabri Devi, who had succeeded her husband as the chief minister in 1997 and held the post till February 2005, extended her birthday greetings to Prasad on the occasion and prayed to the almighty for a long life of the RJD supremo.

    "The conspirators had sent even Lord Krishna to jail. I pray to the almighty for your health and well-being and that you will continue with your fight for the right and honour of the poor," she said.

    RJD's Jharkhand unit president Abhay Singh said the party workers have prepared a 73-pound cake to mark the occasion.

    Another Jharkhand RJD leader Shyamdas Singh said the "Lalu Kitchen" set up to feed the needy during the lockdown has marked the day by serving food to the poor.

    Meanwhile, posters titled "Lalu Pariwar ka Sampattinama" (list of properties owned by Lalu Prasad's family) have come up in Patna.

    The posters say in hindi: "On 73rd birthday, 73 properties series", which Prasad's family has allegedly acquired using its political clout.

    According to the list, Prasad's family owns properties in Patna, Gopalganj and Muzaffarpur among other places.

    Prasad hails from Phulwaria village in Gopalganj district.

    JD(U) spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, however, said the party has not released any such poster or pamphlet.

    "They might have been issued by people who have been victims of the Lalu-Rabri regime of 15 years in Bihar," he said, adding that people have not forgotten those "black days" and might be venting their anger against them by such means.

    The RJD ruled in Bihar continuously from 1990 to 2005. Towards the end of 2005, the NDA led by Nitish Kumar threw it out of power. Since then, Kumar has been the chief minister except for some months when he appointed Jitan Ram Manjhi to the post after his Janata Dal (United) suffered a severe drubbing in the 2014 parliamentary polls.

    Kumar had severed ties with the BJP to join hands with Prasad in the 2015 Bihar election and formed the Grand Alliance government, along with the Congress.

    But in July 2017, he left the coalition to join hands with the BJP again and has been at the helm of affairs in the state since then.

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