Amid indications that elections in Bihar will be held as scheduled – the present Assembly’s term ends on November 29 – RJD president and Leader of Opposition in Vidhan Sabha Tejashwi Yadav has been on the road for the last two weeks, focusing on areas affected by Covid-19 and floods.
The RJD’s social media accounts and other outreach platforms are now full of images of Tejashwi meeting people in areas with overflowing water, or across a washed-away bridge, indicating an effort to counter the impression that the party, and in particular its leader, was missing in action when the lockdown began.
Senior leaders of JD(U), which governs the state in alliance with BJP, however, dismissed Tejashwi’s public outreach efforts as “drama”, and sounded confident of re-election.
One senior RJD leader told The Sunday Express that feedback from the ground has indicated some level of disappointment with the political class and the response to the pandemic, especially to the agony of workers who returned from other states during the nationwide lockdown. “While the party organised food distribution and such programmes, people largely feel not many came out to help them. There is large-scale anger, especially after the lockdown and floods, against Nitish Kumar and the government,” the RJD leader said.
“But there was some feedback that even RJD leaders have not been seen on ground. Nitish Kumar is still not doing the rounds, so it is important that Tejashwi shows he is now connected to the people,” this leader said.
Some RJD leaders maintain that while there has been conversation within the party about a feeling of not being aggressive enough, especially after last year’s Lok Sabha election rout, Tejashwi’s absence has not helped matters. “For one, he was in Delhi when the lockdown was announced. So he was stuck there throughout April. He reached Patna in early May — things started moving (in the state) only thereafter,” a party leader said.
Manoj Jha, Rajya Sabha MP and party spokesperson, said the perception that the former deputy CM was not on the ground is “in a limited sphere”, and denied suggestions of a “course correction”. “In a lockdown situation you are not allowed to move freely. (But) he decided to take risk and reach out to the people, listen to their stories, and convey them to the government… I don’t think this is a course correction. The course was already there…”
The RJD chief has consistently accused Nitish of not stepping out of home during the pandemic even as the virus spread thick and fast in Bihar.
A senior JD(U) leader said, “The people of Bihar know this is a difficult time, and the only person to take them out (of this crisis) is Nitish Kumar. Tejashwi Yadav thinks that by going around for two weeks he will erase years of allegations …. The CM is monitoring everything, and has people’s trust. It is clear the NDA has support, and the arithmetic clearly backs us.”
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