FROM THE stage, the leaders promised a “stronger” socialist front, resolved to “oust the communal forces” and deplored the “politics of compromise”.
However, the statement that enthused the audience, seated in rows of plastic chairs under a tent, was equal parts personal and political – “Yeh do beechre hue bhaiyo ka milan hai (it marks the reunification of two long lost brothers).”
A quarter of a century after he parted ways with Lalu Prasad, veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav on Sunday merged Loktrantik Janata Dal (LJD), a party he had floated in 2018, with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) headed by the former Bihar Chief Minister who is behind bars in connection with a corruption case.
The merger took place at an event at Sharad’s official Delhi residence in the presence of Lalu’s younger son and Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Assembly Tejashwi Yadav and other senior leaders close to the two stalwarts who have dominated the landscape of India’s socialist political tradition for decades.
“He (Tejashwi) is the future. Among young leaders today, Tejashwi is the brightest. RJD is your party, you have to strengthen it. I cannot be active like before. But I will do my best to strengthen him. We will talk to (Samajwadi Party chief) Akhilesh (Yadav) to strengthen our fight,” 74-year-old Sharad said.
Products of the movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 70s, Lalu and Sharad bonded and clashed at various points of their long political journeys which started with undivided Janata Dal. In 1990, Sharad played a key role in the elevation of Lalu as the chief minister of Bihar.
But in 1997, the two drifted apart, as Lalu formed the RJD and Sharad established the Janata Dal (United), which later merged with the Samata Party led by George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar, the incumbent Chief Minister of Bihar.
In 2017, Sharad lost his claim over JD(U) with the Election Commission recognising the faction led by Nitish. Later, he was disqualified from the Rajya Sabha after Kumar petitioned against him for indulging in “anti-party activities”.
For Tejashwi, who clasped Sharad’s hand as they walked to the stage, a merger is “better late than never”.
“This decision to merge gives us strength and confidence and will prove helpful. Going ahead, this is also sending out a message to all opposition parties that we are already running late. We should have come together after 2019 itself. We will be able to oust the communal forces if the socialist forces join hands,” he said.
He also took a dig at the Bihar Chief Minister, saying a real leader “never compromises with his ideas and principles”. “The Bihar CM has no principles.Ye kabhi idhar jaate hai, kabhi udhar,” Tejashwi said.
Sharad’s son Shantanu Bundela and daughter Subhashini Raj Rao, who unsuccessfully contested the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls on a Congress ticket, were also seated on the stage as the merger happened. Lalu’s eldest daughter Misa Bharti, RJD leaders Shyam Rajak, Shivanand Tiwari and Abdul Bari Siddiqui were also among those present.