Major dent to Lalu Yadav as RJD strongman and former minister Mohd Ali Ashraf Fatmi joins JD(U)

Within two months of a humiliating defeat in the general elections, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav suffered another jolt when its senior leader Mohammed Ali Ashraf Fatmi announced his departure from the party and joined the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar. The four-time MP from Darbhanga and former Union minister was considered a close aide of Lalu, now serving a jail term for his involvement in multi-crore fodder scam which took place in the 90s when he was the CM. Fatmi joined the JD(U) in the presence of partys state unit president Bashishtha Narain Singh in Patna. Besides, Fatmi, hundreds of his supporters also switched their loyalty. The development is seen as a huge setback for the party which has been flexing its muscle to regain its lost ground ever since Nitish dissolved the grand alliance. Speaking to reporters in Patna, Fatmi said that the circumstances have changed after the Lok Sabha elections. He said that people from the minority community in the state are seriously mulling over the option of walking with Nitish Kumar, whose agenda for social amity, development with justice and unwavering stand on minority issues is growing despite being in alliance with the BJP. Fatmi, who served in the RJD for more than two decades, was unhappy with the RJD leadership ever since he was denied a Lok Sabha ticket from Darbhanga. He said that the RJD has failed to fulfill its commitment to fight for the poor and it is paying the price for its flawed policies. Soon after joining the JD(U), Fatmi went to Chief Minister Nitish Kumars residence to meet him. Fatmi is a prominent Muslim leader in the states politics. During Lalus era in the 90s, Fatmi was a key member of his team and was key to RJD forming the Yadavs-Muslims (MY) equation that made Lalu look invincible at a point of time. Fatmi represented the Darbhanga parliamentary seat four times – 1991, 1996 as a Janata Dal MP and 1998, 2004 as an RJD MP. He served as a minister in the Manmohan Singh government between 2004 and 2009. He was terminated from the party by Tej Pratap Yadav earlier this year after he publicly expressed disappointment over the functioning of the party under the existing leadership. He had then joined the BSP and declared that he will fight from Madhubani seat, but withdrew his candidature the next day.