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25 years after parting of ways, Sharad Yadav all set to merge his LJD with Lalu’s RJD

Top RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav will be present at LJD-RJD merger function scheduled for Sunday, with Sharad Yadav saying the move is part of his efforts to 'unite' erstwhile Janata Dal’s various splinter outfits.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
Updated: March 20, 2022 7:15:02 am
Lalu Prasad Yadav with Sharad Yadav. (Express file photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Veteran socialist leader and former Union minister Sharad Yadav, 74, is all set to merge his Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) with the Lalu Prasad Yadav-headed Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) on Sunday. Top RJD leader and Bihar’s Leader of the Opposition (LoP), Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, will be present at this merger function to be held at Sharad’s residence in Delhi.

Since its inception in May 2018, the LJD never fought any election, with Sharad himself contesting, unsuccessfully, from Madhepura in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on the RJD ticket. In the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls, Sharad’s daughter Suhashini Yadav contested unsuccessfully from Bihariganj seat as a Congress candidate.

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Announcing his decision to merge his party with his friend-turned-rival-turned-friend Lalu’s party, Sharad has said this will be part of his efforts to bring together various splinter outfits of the erstwhile Janata Dal. “To establish a strong Opposition in the country is the need of the hour. I have been working in this direction for a long time to unite breakaway parties of the erstwhile Janata Dal as well as other like-minded parties. Hence, I have decided to merge my party LJD with the RJD,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

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Tejashwi, who has been at the helm of the RJD following the incarceration of his father Lalu Prasad in the fifth fodder scam case, has called Sharad a “father-figure and socialist icon”. “Everyone knows the importance of veteran socialist Sharad Yadav in Indian politics. He is a father figure and would guide us,” he had recently said in Patna.

“The merger of LJD with RJD is not just symbolic,” said RJD national spokesperson Subodh Mehta. “As Sharad Yadav ji rightly pointed out that the merger would be the first step towards the Opposition unity. Sharad Yadav has been a stalwart who commands respect from across political divides. RJD would gain a lot from his experience.”

It is however another matter that this merger had been on the cards for a long time. The LJD’s founder leaders like Sharad and ex-MP Ali Anwar had been in the political wilderness over the last several years, with their party failing to make any headway into Bihar or any state. Sharad himself is not known to have a mass base beyond Madhepura, a constituency that he represented several times in the Lok Sabha.

For the RJD, Sharad Yadav’s importance stems from not only his political stature but also the fact that the former Janata Dal (United) leader had taken on his then party colleague and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over his decision to return to the BJP-led NDA fold in 2017. Sharad had opposed Nitish’s move and had to pay for his resistance by losing his Rajya Sabha seat midway.

The LJD-RJD merger might be a prelude to the RJD nominating Sharad to the Rajya Sabha in the Upper House biennial polls slated for June. Though there is no official word so far from either camp in this regard, there has been a buzz in political circles about it.

The merger will also mark the Sharad-Lalu relationship coming full circle. As the then Choudhary Devi Lal aide, Sharad had been instrumental in the Janata Dal camp in the selection of Lalu Prasad as the CM through an internal party contest after the 1990 Bihar elections, when the then Prime Minister VP Singh had been backing the candidature of Ram Sunder Das for the post. Lalu had won that contest involving him, Das and Raghunath Jha by three votes.

The 1990 development led to a period that saw political friendship as well as rivalry between Sharad and Lalu. It culminated in their parting of ways in 1997, when Lalu founded the RJD and Sharad established the JD(U), which later merged with George Fernandes’s Samata Party. Subsequently, Sharad and Lalu have also been locked together in parliamentary polls, defeating each other periodically.

The LJD-RJD merger again brings together two old friends-turned-rivals in the twilight of their political career. Lalu has been virtually out of active politics because of court cases and failing health. Sharad, who has also been keeping a low profile for health reasons, seems to be now hoping to regain his political salience through this merger.

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