The ruling NDA in Bihar on Friday tore into Tejashwi Yadav for his attempt to stave off, in the run up to assembly polls, attacks on the RJD over lawlessness and corruption which routinely made headlines during the 15 years when his parents - Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi- ruled the state.
Both the JD(U), headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and the BJP have embarked on a strategy to build a "15 years versus 15 years" narrative with a view to surmounting the incumbency factor as the coalition seeks a fourth consecutive term in power.
The strategy is reflected in slogans inscribed on posters and banners put up by both parties.
Also, a Union Home Minister Amit Shah's speech at a "virtual rally" last month and addresses by the Chief Minister to JD(U) workers through video conference recently pointed in the same direction.
Yadav, who has been named by his party as its chief ministerial candidate, sought to counter the strategy by asserting that his father’s "contribution towards ensuring social justice is unquestionable".
At a party meeting here on Thursday, the 30-year-old also said, "I was too young when we were in power to have realised how things were back then. But, if there were any mistakes, I seek apology for the same".
Nitish Kumar, who headed the NDA government that replaced RJD from power in November 2005, is on the chief ministerial chair for almost 15 years, barring a few months when he had anointed Jitan Ram Manjhi on the post after JD(U)'s massive defeat in 2014 general election.
RJD’s rivals term the party’s 15 years’ rule as "jungle raj" (lawlessness), while Nitish Kumar’s tenure is trumpeted as "sushasan" (good governance).
The RJD has always contested the allegations.
Yadav’s father rose to power in 1990, riding the Mandal wave that had gripped the state. Seven years later, he stepped down as Chief Minister, faced with imminent arrest in connection with the fodder scam, bequeathing the chair to his homemaker wife in a controversial move.
Rabri Devi ended up enjoying a tenure that outlasted that of her husband and came to an end only in November, 2005 when the RJD-Congress combine was defeated by the JD(U)-BJP coalition.
In a couple of stinging tweets, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi referred to the "poverty and violence that brought shame to Bihar" while Lalu Prasad was at the helm of affairs.
"No apology sounds convincing if it comes from a member of the family which has sought to glorify this abominable model of governance by calling it Laluvaad (Laluism)", said Modi, without referring to Yadav by name.
A veteran BJP leader, Modi was among those who had filed a PIL in the Patna High Court seeking a CBI inquiry into the multi-crore fodder scam.
The RJD supremo has been convicted in a number of cases filed in connection with the scam relating to illegal withdrawal of money from government treasuries in united Bihar in 90s, leading to his disqualification from contesting elections.
He has been in Ranchi for more than two years, serving sentences awarded by a special CBI court.
Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000.
Coming down heavily on Yadav, state minister and senior JD(U) leader Neeraj Kumar fumed, "Tejashwi should give up equivocation and categorically admit that his parents were squarely responsible for the scams and the 118 massacres that took place while they enjoyed power".
Notably, in the 1990’s Bihar used to witness massacres carried out by rivalling ultra-Left groups and private militias of landlords. The figure of 118, routinely peddled by the NDA, is contested by the RJD.
After sharing power with the JD(U) for less than two years, the RJD-Congress combine was left high and dry when Nitish Kumar abruptly returned to the NDA after the name of Yadav, then his deputy, cropped up in money laundering cases.
A spanner has been thrown in the opposition combine’s attempts to garner voters sympathy over what it calls "betrayal of mandate" received in 2015 when JD(U), RJD and Congress formed a Grand Alliance and won the polls hands down.
NDA sources also admit that given the checkered relations between BJP and JD(U), the long shadow cast by Lalu Prasad on the state’s politics is the glue that can hold the two parties together.