Patna: By becoming the RJD’s chief ministerial face in the 2020 Bihar assembly elections, Tejashwi Yadav has emerged a winner in the family feud, thanks to the intervention of his father and patriarch Lalu Prasad Yadav.
With the backing of his father, he has also silenced the opponents within the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), forcing them to bow down and thereby establishing family’s 22-year dominance over the party.
Tejashwi had issued an ultimatum to quit if his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav was not removed from the party or restrained from making controversial outbursts that were causing embarrassment to him and creating flutters in the political circles.
The RJD leader had skipped party’s foundation day function on July 5, a day before the national executive meeting was held, as by then he had not received a positive assurance from his parents on taming or preventing Tej Pratap from creating nuisance.
Sources said Lalu Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi compelled Tej Pratap to remain quiet and ensured that both the brothers attended the national executive meeting on July 6 together to send across ‘all is well in the family’ message to the people. Tejashwi was also categorically told to break the coterie around him and listen to Tej Pratap and Misa Bharti besides other senior party leaders.
On his part, Tej Pratap gifted a copy of Bhagwat Gita as a token of blessings to his younger brother to emerge victorious in the coming 2020 state elections. Tej Pratap considers himself to be Lord Krishna and Tejashwi as his charioteer, Arjun. After the national executive meeting, Rabri even released a photo of her offering food to Tej Pratap at her official residence.
However, some senior leaders like former minister Jagadanand Singh, who was considered close to Tejashwi till recently, Tej Pratap’s sulking father-in-law Chandrika Rai and rebel MLA Maheshwar Yadav were conspicuous by their absence from both functions organised by the party.
Such tokenisms are symbolic gestures but the trouble in Lalu family has reached a point of no return due to the vaulting political ambitions of his sons and daughters. It is a temporary truce among the Lalu scions in a bid to save the party from disintegration and the impending split it faces in view of poaching offers made to its MLAs by the BJP and JDU.
Giving the ‘united family’ message had become imperative to establish the supremacy of the RJD because the allies of the grand alliance (mahagathbandhan) were also not happy with the unending feud in the Lalu family.
While Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi had termed Tejashwi as ‘immature’ and a ‘kid’, and shown his inclination towards the Janata Dal (U), the RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha has been organising protest marches against chief minister Nitish Kumar in a bid to emerge as the only alternative leader suitable for the top post in Bihar.
It was Kushwaha’s known political ambitions to become the chief minister of Bihar that Tejashwi was unilaterally declared as the CM face of the RJD. It is yet to be known whether Kushwaha will accept Tejashwi’s projection but the Congress, a big partner of the grand alliance till today, may not agree with the decision to project Tejashwi as the chief ministerial face in the 2020 polls.
“We fought the Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of Tejashwi but the outcome was nil. In the state assembly polls, the chief minister will be decided only after the poll results. How can a leader be declared chief ministerial candidate before knowing the actual number of legislators?” asked Kishore Kumar Jha, senior Congress leader and AICC member.
Rebel legislators like Maheshwar Yadav, too, continue to seek change in the party leadership citing the example of Rahul Gandhi, who has stepped down as the Congress president. “Lalu should resign and install one of his trusted lieutenants as the party president. Similarly, Tejashwi should handover the post of leader of opposition in the state legislative assembly to Abdul Bari Siddiqui and Rabri Devi should give the charge of leader of opposition in the legislative council to Ramchandra Purve,” Maheshwar Yadav said.
The rift between the two brothers first became visible soon after Tej Pratap was superseded by his younger brother Tejashwi in the race for the post of the deputy chief minister in the grand alliance government led by Nitish Kumar. Tej Pratap was made the health minister much to his discomfiture, but Lalu had then doused the fire by giving him charge of three departments.
Tej Pratap has exploded against his younger brother several times, alleging that some unscrupulous elements have created a coterie around Tejashwi and the party has become a platform of devious characters. He had to seek the intervention of his parents for appointment of one of his protégés on some insignificant party posts.
The power struggle in the Lalu family got accentuated after Tej Pratap’s wedding to Aishwarya Rai, daughter of former minister Chandrika Rai and granddaughter of former Bihar chief minister Daroga Prasad Rai. Since Aishwarya is from an illustrious Yadav family, her interest in active politics has been a matter of speculation in the political circles.
However, her marriage could not continue and her mercurial husband filed a divorce petition in a family court last year. Having lost from the Saran Lok Sabha seat due to open opposition by his son-in-law, Chandrika Rai is trying to pursue the divorce case and get his daughter out of the Lalu family.
Tej Pratap appears to be spiritually-inclined and has hogged the headlines not for his political acumen but for his controversial statements. Some family members, however, said that Tej Pratap has been forced to take resort to spirituality mainly due to conspiracy by his ‘foes in the family’ to sideline him politically.
Both sons of Lalu started taking keen interest in politics after failing in their respective careers. Lalu introduced his younger son Tejashwi into politics during the 2010 state assembly polls after his cricketing career didn’t take off.
Tej Pratap tried his hand in business and ran a Hero Honda motorcycle showroom called ‘LaRa Agency’ in Aurangabad district in Bihar. He has also dabbled in cinema and played the main protagonist in a film titled ‘Rudra’ and role of a chief minister in a Bhojpuri film in 2016, when he was Bihar health minister.
(The author is a senior journalist. Views expressed are personal.)