Tejashwi Yadav, the articulate younger son of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad who helms the five-party Grand Alliance, has been the state's deputy chief minister four a couple years, but faces the electorate for the first time without his charismatic father by his side.
Grand Alliance's Chief Ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav
The Bihar assembly election 2020 is testing the mettle of the scions of two foremost political dynasties in the state–the Prasads and the Paswans–as they fight a gruelling electoral battle to protect and preserve the formidable legacies of their fathers.
Tejashwi Yadav, the articulate younger son of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad who helms the five-party Grand Alliance, has been the state’s deputy chief minister four a couple years, but faces the electorate for the first time without his charismatic father by his side.
Chirag Paswan, to whom his father Ram Vilas Paswan had passed on the baton of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in his lifetime, is ploughing a lonely furrow in the absence of the wise counsel of his father, the redoubtable Dalit leader from Bihar with a national appeal, who died a few days ago.
Chirag, the sitting Lok Sabha MP from Jamui, faces the daunting task of carrying forward the legacy of his father, who had friends across the political divide, virtually friendless. Paswan Junior walked out of the NDA in Bihar when his father was on the death bed, and has been furiously attacking Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is also the JD(U) boss and the ruling coalition’s chief ministerial contender.
However, he has been all the while professing his loyalty to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and calling himself his ‘Hanuman’. Amid hushed whispers about the “tacit” backing Chirag has of a section of BJP leadership, Kumar, a loyal adherent to realpolitik, made some senior leaders of the saffron party, including union minister Prakash Javadekar, openly renounce and denounce Paswan Jr, who they called a ‘vote katua’ (vote splitter who doesn’t stand to gain much) that was trying to confuse the NDA voters.
With the support of his numerically small but assertive Paswan castemen, the LJP president hopes to clinch sufficient number of seats in the 243-member Bihar assembly to stay relevant in state politics. The party had won six Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 elections, largely because of the alliance it had with the BJP and JD(U). It had won just two seats in the 2015 assembly polls.
According to analysts, Tejashwi is comparatively on a more firm footing, particularly because of the preponderance of the Yadavs, the single biggest caste in the state. In several constituencies yadav candidates have won and finished second election after election.
Though Lalu Prasad may not be around to lead his army in the electoral battlefield, many in the opposition claim, he had a decisive say in selecting candidates and finalising the seat-sharing formula while still serving time in a Ranchi jail after his conviction in the fodder scam.
The RJD-led alliance has the Congress, CPI, CPI(M) and CPI-ML as its constituents. The Muslims have, by and large, stood behind the RJD- Congress combine and, according to close watchers of the poll scene, things will be no different this time. Tejashwi’s elder brother Tej Pratap, a sitting MLA from Mahua, has shifted to Hasanpur in Samastipur district. Chirag Paswan has nominated his cousin Krishna Raj from Rosera constituency.
Apart from Tejashwi and Chirag, who have big shoes to fill, a bevy of young men and women belonging to lesser political clans are set to try their luck at the hustings. RJD vice president Shivanand Tiwari’s son Rahul Tiwari is seeking re-election from Shahpur seat in Buxar, while its state unit head Jagdanand Singh’s son Sudhakar Singh has got ticket from Ramgarh. Former union minister Kanti Singh’s son Rishi Singh will try to find a way to political success with lantern, RJD’s election symbol, in hand in Obra. Randhir Kumar Singh, the son of former Lok Sabha MP Prabhunath Singh, is trying his luck on RJD ticket from Chapra.
Jai Prakash Narain Yadav, a former Union minister considered close to the RJD supremo, has managed to secure a ticket for his daughter Divya Prakash from Tarapur and brother Vijay Prakash from Jamui. In Jamui, Vijay Prakash will cross swords with Sherayasi Singh, commonwealth shooting gold medalist and daughter of former union minister late Digvijay Singh.
Sherayasi is the BJP nominee for the seat. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has kept away his family, including son Nishant, from politics, but has rewarded the children of his loyalists with JD(U) tickets. Former MP Jagdish Sharma’s son Rahul Kumar is in the fray from Jehanabad, while Nikhil Mandal, the son of sitting MLA from Madhepura Mahindra Kumar Mandal, has replaced his father.
Meena Kamat, daughter-in-law of late state minister Kapildeo Kamat, is the JD(U) candidate for Babubarhi seat in Madhubani. The ruling party has also fielded Kaushal Kishore, a son of Haryana Governor Satya Narayan Arya, from Rajgir (reserved) seat. Arya represented Rajgir seven times as a BJP nominee. From the BJP, union minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey failed to secure a ticket for his son Arijit Shashwat, but Nitin Nabin, the son of seasoned BJP leader the late Naveen Kishore Prasad Sinha is in the fray from Bankipur. Nabin, however, has come into his own and represented the seat thrice.
The Congress, which got 70 seats as part of the seat- sharing pact with the RJD, has also accomodated a host of children of its leaders. Actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha’s son Luv Sinha is in the fray from Bankipur, while its legislature party leader Sadanand Singh’s son Subhanand Mukesh has taken over from his father in Kahalgaon. Neither Sinha nor Singh find anything unusual about children of political leaders walking into their footsteps.
“My son is not a parachute candidate. He is fighting election as ‘Bihari putra’. He has worked in the constituency since 2009 when I first contested Lok Sabha election from my native Patna Sahib constituenc, said Sinha. Sadanand Singh, eight-term MLA from Kahalgaon since 1980, is 77 now, and wants his son to take over the mantle from him.
“How long can I continue? Nowadays politics means moving regularly from one village to another and touring the constituency throughout the five-year term. It’s difficult for me to take so much physical rigour at this age,” he said. Shivanand Tiwari, a comrade-in-arms of leaders like Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar during the days of the JP movement, said young people should be encouraged to join politics.
“Youth should be welcomed to join politics. It’s not for my family but people to elect my son,” Tiwari, a former MP and Bihar minister said. Another notable leader whose ward has taken the political plunge is Subhashini Yadav, the daughter of socialist veteran Sharad Yadav, from Bihariganj in Madhepura. Yadav, who has been keeping indifferent health, represented Madhepura in the Lok Sabha several times. “I have taken the political plunge to save the legacy of my father,” she said.