Will dynastic politics triumph over democratic politics in the ongoing tussle between Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) state president Jagadanand Singh and Tej Pratap Yadav, elder son of party president Lalu Prasad Yadav?
In an indication that all is not well within the RJD, senior party leader Singh has taken umbrage at Tej Pratap Yadav’s unwarranted outbursts against him recently. Singh may go on a sabbatical due to ‘mental fatigue’ if he is not given a free hand to set the RJD house in order and make it more democratic.
The elder son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad had castigated Singh for not being present to welcome him at the gate of the party office recently. Tej Pratap had lost his cool after he was informed that even present and former legislators were required to seek prior appointment to meet the state party president in the party office.
Tej Pratap accused Singh of weakening the party and being responsible for the ill health of his father. “My father had nourished the RJD as a party of the poor and promoted democracy within the party. But in his absence, people like Jagadanand Singh are weakening the party,” he alleged.
He sought immediate change in the state party leadership to restore democracy within the party and make it more egalitarian and friendly to people, who had reposed immense faith in the party ensuring victory of 75 legislators in the 2020 state assembly elections.
As part of the damage-control exercise, Lalu, who is undergoing treatment in Delhi AIIMS for his multiple ailments, has summoned his elder son to Delhi. But the RJD chief is facing an acute crisis in his family over control of the party among his children.
Tej Pratap’s outbursts against the state party chief are being perceived as his anger erupting against the regimented system of functioning within the party in which only Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, the heir apparent of Lalu Prasad, is given due importance while other family members are treated at par with other party members.
The RJD has hitherto been labelled as ‘private limited company’ devoid of democracy. To shed this tag, the RJD leadership is trying hard to make it a democratic organisation and throw the yolk of dynastic politics by keeping Lalu’s elder daughter Misa Bharti, MP, and elder son Tej Pratap, MLA, away from organisational matters.
Party sources said that special treatment is accorded to Tejashwi Yadav by the state president as part of the protocol because he is the chief ministerial face of the party. At a dharna against the Centre on myriad issues a few months ago, Tejashwi was made to sit on a chair while other participants, including Jagadanand Singh, sat on the ground.
At the same time, the party does not accord priority to the programmes charted out by Tej Pratap. Recently, he started a postcard campaign to press for the demand to release his ailing father from custody in his typical maverick style.
He marched to the Patna General Post office along with his supporters carrying bundles of postcards addressed to President Ramnath Kovind seeking release of his father. Lalu has been granted bail by the Jharkhand High Court in some of the cases but he needs to secure bail in other cases for his release from jail.
Tej Pratap, who took little interest in politics earlier, had enlisted himself on the RJD succession chart after playing an active role in the Patna University’s student’s union election a few years ago. He is more flamboyant and captures attention by his idiosyncrasies.
The RJD has been by and large a family controlled party and Lalu’s elder son Tejashwi has already emerged as the tallest leader of the party after him. But Tej Pratap remains an enigma due to his bristly conduct causing consternation to the leadership. Out of power, Tej Pratap has become more aggressive and the tussle for acquisition of family legacy has become more pronounced.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Tej Pratap had fielded his own candidates in Sheohar and Jehanabad against the official nominees. The RJD’s dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, when it drew a blank, has been cause of concern for the leadership.
In Lalu’s absence, Tejashwi steered the party which won maximum number of state assembly seats in 2020 polls but the coalition helmed by it fell short of the majority mark. Lalu, however, made an unsuccessful attempt to topple the NDA government.
Lalu’s chosen political heir is Tejashwi Yadav but senior party leaders are concerned about the political ambitions of Tej Pratap and Misa Bharti. As Tej Pratap asserts himself more aggressively in the absence of Lalu, it would be quite difficult for Tejashwi to rein in his elder brother.
Tejashwi had displayed political maturity by removing pictures of his parents – Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi – from party’s posters during the assembly elections to annul accusations of RJD being a family enterprise by the rivals. He tried to make political rebranding of the RJD and create a public movement on the issue of unemployment.
The ongoing rumblings within the RJD do not augur well as the RJD leadership is hopeful of forming the government in the event the NDA allies turn hostile to each other in Bihar, where the NDA government has a wafer-thin majority. In such a situation, it will be difficult for the party leadership to allure the disenchanted MLAs as war between two brothers may send wrong signals among them.
It may hamper the party's bid to expand its base in other states. It is in talks with Trinamool Congress to fight the upcoming West Bengal polls together. A team of senior party leaders comprising Abdul Bari Siddiqui and Shyam Rajak have visited Bengal and Assam to explore the possibilities.
The RJD enjoys considerable support among the Muslims besides the Yadavs in few seats on the inter-state border that have a sizable number of Hindi-speaking people. The party had an MLA in Bengal assembly between 2006 and 2011 during the Left-front government.