Jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad's wife Rabri Devi, who like her husband is a former Chief Minister of Bihar, will lead the party in his absence, it was announced on Sunday.
The decision to anoint 54-year-old Rabri was taken at a crucial meeting of RJD MPs, MLAs, MLCs and senior party functionaries at her residence here.
"Prasad is our leader and will remain so in future...In his absence Rabri will guide us as she had done in the past," RJD's National General Secretary Ramkripal Yadav informed after emerging from the meeting.
Rabri while addressing the meeting scotched speculation that she will contest the 2014 general elections from Chapra parliamentary seat of her husband, saying she was not greedy for any political post. Prasad is set to be disqualified from the Lok Sabha after his conviction in the fodder case.
Prasad is lodged in a Ranchi jail after being convicted in a fodder scam case by a CBI court which handed him five years imprisonment.
Rabri asked party leaders and workers to maintain rock-like unity in the hour of "crisis".
"I appeal to you all to maintain rock-like unity and carry forward the party's programme and social justice agenda," she said.
"All of you must shed your differences to stand united to make the party a strong political force in Bihar," Rabri said and outlined the party's political agenda over the next couple of months. She said the district and assembly constituency-level programmes of the party will go on as scheduled as decided earlier by Prasad.
Rabri, who along with Prasad ruled Bihar for 15 years from 2000, dismissed talk of her party disintegrating after Prasad's conviction, saying there was no question of any division, and that none of the leaders and workers were going anywhere.
"The question about the RJD disintegrating or breaking apart simply does not arise," she said. Rabri was Chief Minister from 1997 to 2005 after Prasad handed over the reins of the state to her after the RJD strongman was charged in the fodder scam.
Expressing faith in the higher judiciary and in the people, Yadav, a trusted lieutenant of the Prasad couple, said, "Prasad will come out unscathed (when he moves the high court) and will lead us once again in future."
The RJD leaders and workers have pledged to remain united in this "hour of crisis" and expressed their determination to expose the conspiracy of JD(U) and BJP to get Prasad framed in the fodder scam case.
RJD national spokesman Iliyas Hussain said the reins of the party still remained in the "strong hands" of Prasad. "He remains the undisputed leader of the party today and will be so in future as well."
Rabri Devi will be the party's guiding force and RJD will carry out its scheduled programmes as usual, he added.