Voices of dissent have started to emerge in the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD),of Lalu Prasad Yadav, a leader who dominated the political landscape of Bihar for close to two decades after the drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. The RJD-led grand alliance faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of NDA. Barring the Kishanganj seat which the Congress won, no other constituents of the grand alliance could open its tally in the state. The remaining 39 seats were pocketed by the ruling BJP-JD(U)-LJP combine.
Questions have begun to be raised against Lalu’s younger son Tejashwi, who is considered to be the natural choice as the heir to Lau’s throne and his political legacy. In incidents that were unheard of before, party leaders have started to question the leadership – some discreetly and others more openly. Party MLA Maheshwar Prasad Yadav on Monday sought the resignation of Tejashwi Yadav, who also happens to be the Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Legislative Assembly, on moral grounds after the party’s vigorous campaign against the Modi-Nitish combine came to naught.
Maheshwar Prasad said that he feels ‘parivarwad’ (infighting) in the Yadav family cost the party the most. He said that Tejashwi should handover the batton to a senior non-Yadav leader if the party is serious about giving a tough fight to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the 2020 Assembly elections. Warning the leadership that the party will break if his demands are not fulfilled, he said, “As a party MLA, I would request Tejaswhi Yadav to resign from the post of LOP taking moral responsibility of the Lok Sabha poll debacle and appoint any other senior party leader hailing from a caste other than Yadav to the post of LOP, failing which the party will have to face crushing defeat in 2020 assembly elections.”
Prasad may not be wrong after all. The feud in Lalu’s family has hogged limelight ever since the RJD chief was sent to jail in December 2017 in connection with the multi-crore fodder scam. At the forefront of the family feud are Lalu’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, younger son Tejashwi and eldest daughter Misa Bharti. Although the family has denied differences among them, their actions and statements time and again in media have signalled that all is not well within the family. As is evident, the absence of Lalu has cost the RJD dearly in these elections.
The bigger fear for RJD, as articulated by Prasad, is of a loss in the Assembly election due to be held in October-November 2020. The polls will see a direct contest between NDA’s Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav who lacks political maturity and is faced with unwanted criticism from his elder brother and sister over his style of functioning. Since Lalu is serving a 14-year jail term and there is a thin chance he would be granted bail, the Yadav family faces an ultimate challenge to keep its leaders and workers’ morale intact. This Lok Sabha election was the first electoral test for Tejashwi who has been leading the party for the last one and half years in Lalu’s absence and he failed spectacularly.
Given that Misa lost from Patliputra seat — she could pitch for a role in the party organisation — and brother Tej Pratap having expressed displeasure over the treatment being meted out to him by the family, the infighting is only bound to escalate.
Prasad’s warning that party MLAs will break if his demand for Tejashwi’s resignation is not fulfilled could the first step towards RJD’s probable disintegration. Prasad has gone on to claim that several MLAs are already in touch with him. The Gaighat MLA made it clear that he will not attend the May 28 and 29 meeting of the party to discuss the party’s loss if his demands are not met.
“If my demand (to appoint someone else as LOP) is not fulfilled, then the legislature party will break as party’s several legislators are with me,” he claimed. Earlier this week, two of the three Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP MLAs joined the Janata Dal (United).
The RJD leader also stated that the party would not have performed well in 2015 Assembly polls if Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had contested alone or as a constituent of the NDA. He said that “it was because of Kumar that RJD came to power in 2015 in the state”.
In the 2015 polls, the RJD-Congress-Janata Dal (United) had contested the elections in an alliance. The alliance had won 178 seats in 243 members legislative Assembly. The BJP had won just 53 seats. Later in 2017, Nitish Kumar dissolved the grand alliance and returned to the NDA fold and formed a new government.