Even as the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the main opposition party in Bihar, faces criticism from the NDA over continued absence of Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav from the Assembly, the party is facing internal challenges on two counts.
While within the family of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, a power tussle is going on between his sons Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, over a dozen MLAs are also reported to be unhappy with Tejashwi’s leadership, especially after the RJD drew a blank in this summer’s Lok Sabha polls.
Sibling the bigger woe in near term
Although there is no immediate threat of a split in the RJD, as there is no unanimous rebel leader emerging who can have sway over at least 54 of its 81 MLAs, the worry for the party, and Tejashwi himself, is a rebellion from Tej Pratap if the party decides to expel him. With the RJD appearing to be losing some support among its core base — the Yadavs — as the Lok Sabha election results reflected, any more swing against the party could mean another rout in the state Assembly elections next year. And that is where Tej Pratap can harm the RJD, not with a knock-out punch, but chipping away at the roots for the BJP-JD(U) to uproot it. Tej Pratap may not have mass support but he enjoys support in some quarters, especially among many youth wing leaders of the party.
Sources in the party said Tejashwi, who wants to “reassert his position” in RJD, wants action against dissidents, including elder brother and former Health minister Tej Pratap, who had campaigned against RJD nominees on three Lok Sabha seats.
While some MLAs are reportedly opposed to Tejashwi’s leadership, sources said there is little chance of a split, as it will be difficult to prompt two-third of its 81 MLAs to leave the party.
An RJD leader said: “We are more worried about a rebellion from Tej Pratap, who has already formed ‘Lalu Rabri Morcha’. If the party expels him, he may well float a party with the same name. Tejashwi, under tremendous pressure after the Lok Sabha rout, wants to reassert his position in the party. The party has announced his name as its chief minister nominee, so he does not want any threat to his position.”
At the RJD national executive meet earlier this month, although Tejashwi did not name Tej Pratap he did speak of action against “dissidents”, the source pointed out. Tejashwi had said: “My father is a forgiver like Lord Mahadev and forgives even those who deserted him and later returned to the party. But there can no place for indiscipline in the party.” Another RJD leader said: “Several MLAs have been unhappy with both brothers, and with a handful of people close to Tejashwi making all key decisions.”
It is possible that some of these leaders may switch their allegiance to the JD(U) before the Assembly polls, scheduled in late 2020, the leader said.
Senior party leader and former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, said, “There is a need to strengthen the party and to go to the field much before the Assembly polls.” Singh had sought to discuss problems in the party with Lalu Prasad in Ranchi last week but could not meet him. Singh and fellow senior leader, former Rajya Sabha MP Shivanand Tewary, are scheduled to meet Lalu soon.