OPINION | Tej Pratap vs Tejashwi: Is the Mahabharat in Lalu Prasad's Family Courtesy a 'Disgruntled Mama'
Family sources said behind Tej Pratap’s demands are some of his ‘mamas’ who have seen better days in the past and have now been politically alienated within the RJD, and cousins from Salar Kalan, the ancestral village of Rabri Devi.
Tejashwi and Tej Pratap Yadav.
The succession war in Lalu Prasad’s family threatens to jeopardise the poll prospects of the Rashtriya Janata Dal in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, which is a make-or-mar fight for the embattled RJD chief.
At the forefront of the family feud are Lalu’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, younger son Tejashwi and eldest daughter and Patliputra candidate Misa Bharti. And, backing the battle for family legacy are mamas (maternal uncles), maternal cousins and relatives from Haryana associated with the family.
Tej Pratap, the beleaguered elder son, has staked claim to two Lok Sabha seats — Sheohar and Jehanabad — for his supporters. He has given the green signal to one Chandra Prakash to file nomination from Jehanabad seat, where the RJD has officially put up former minister and MP Surendra Yadav. Tej Pratap has also asked his aide Agnesh Singh to file nomination from Sheohar parliamentary seat, where the RJD has not yet fielded any candidate.
In protest against the denial of the desired seats, Tej Pratap has resigned from the post of patron of the Chhatra RJD, confounding problems for his younger brother and Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly, Tejashwi Yadav. He has also declared he will contest from Saran Lok Sabha seat against his father-in-law Chandrika Rai, who is the official nominee of the RJD.
On Monday, Tej Pratap floated a parallel outfit — Lalu Rabri Morcha — and urged his mother Rabri Devi to contest from Saran Lok Sabha seat in place of the father of his estranged wife and threatened to contest as an Independent if his request was not heeded.
Family sources said behind Tej Pratap’s demands are some of his ‘mamas’ who have seen better days in the past and have now been politically alienated within the RJD and cousins from Salar Kalan, the ancestral village of Rabri Devi. It is also public knowledge that behind Tej Pratap’s overtures are top leaders of the BJP and JD(U) and that he might be accommodated by the two parties if he faces disciplinary action by the RJD.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had once heaped praise on Tej Pratap for his proficiency in playing the flute. Tej Pratap was immediately allocated an official bungalow when he called up Chief Minister Nitish Kumar when he returned to Patna after travelling for more than a month from one shrine city to other. He had left his mother’s home after filing divorce petition following differences with his newly wedded spouse Aishwarya Rai, the granddaughter of former Bihar CM Daroga Prasad Rai and daughter of RJD leader Chandrika Rai.
Tej Pratap was married to Aishwarya, a Delhi University alumna, at the behest of Rabri Devi, who wanted her eldest son to settle down with a padhi-likhi (educated) wife. However, her entry into Lalu’s family further accentuated the family feud.
After the divorce petition, Aishwarya had left Rabri’s home to live with her parents. Rabri, however, brought her back, but Tej Pratap does not live with his mother and wife.
Tejashwi, officially holding the political baton passed on to him by his father, remains in the limelight both at the state and national level. From seat-sharing talks with allies to representing the party at different gatherings of opposition parties, Tejashwi has carved out a niche for himself. He has a well-laid team of tech-savvy social media professionals, who manage his political attacks on rivals — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Tejashwi also enjoys good personal rapport with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and both were spotted together in a Delhi restaurant. It is Tejashwi’s growing popularity and acceptability as his father’s heir apparent that Tej Pratap and his team don’t adore at all. In fact, Tej Pratap is longing for restoration of traditional system of ‘elder’s prominence’ in the family.
The war of succession had begun when Lalu anointed Tejashwi as his heir apparent by giving him a platform during campaign for the 2014 parliamentary polls and handing him the charge of youth wing of the party.
Rabri Devi, meanwhile, was keen on promoting her eldest son as their successor.
The necessity to anoint Tejashwi then had arisen after party’s Madhepura MP, Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, tried to usurp the RJD in view of Lalu’s fragile health and incarceration in fodder scam cases. Upset over the virtual rebellion in the party, the RJD supremo had then categorically said, “A son is natural heir to his father. There should not be any doubt to anyone.”
For a brief period, the brewing family feud subsided after RJD-JD(U) combine came to power in 2015 with Nitish Kumar as the Chief Minister. As a political deal between Lalu and Nitish, Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap were made Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister, respectively.
But soon, Tejashwi and his family were accused of acquiring prime plot of three acres in Patna through a benami company in exchange for awarding an IRCTC contract. The corruption allegation forced Nitish Kumar to break the RJD-JDU alliance and form the government with the support of BJP.
Out of power, Tej Pratap began throwing tantrums and the tussle for acquisition of family legacy became more pronounced after his marriage. His wife, too, is said to have initially sought family attention by trying to assert herself as the elder ‘bhabhi’.
But the situation turned worse and eventually, Tej Pratap and Aishwarya quarrelled over who would be the claimant of the Saran (Chapra) Lok Sabha seat. The Saran seat eventually went to Aishwarya’s father Chandrika Rai, much to the discomfiture of Tej Pratap.
Now, Tej Pratap has announced he’ll contest from Saran against his father-in-law, resulting in embarrassment for Lalu. “Actually, Tej Pratap is playing the role played by Shivpal Yadav in Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. His overtures are bound to give ample opportunity to the opposition to tarnish Lalu’s image,” said former RJD MLA Shivadhar Paswan.
Lalu’s brothers-in-law — Sadhu Yadav and Subhash Yadav — wielded enormous power in Bihar during his rule between 1990 and 2005. Patronised by their sister Rabri Devi, they were so powerful that they never allowed Lalu’s own brothers and nephews to come closer. Lalu and his brothers-in-law fell apart when Sadhu was denied Lok Sabha ticket from West Champaran in 2009 elections. He contested as Congress candidate but lost.
(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)
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