At its National Council convention Monday, the RJD appealed to political parties to come together to fight the BJP under a common umbrella, including the Congress. The party, associated with the Yadavs, also had an appeal for its supporters and workers, to change their ways so as to embrace the backward and extremely backward classes.
Political parties that spurn offers to work together against the BJP will “not be forgiven” by the people, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad said. In his speech, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and RJD second-in-command Tejashwi Yadav said “egos will have to be cast aside” for this unity bid.
Lalu, who has been ailing for some time, virtually ceding party control to Tejashwi, was received with loud cheers at the packed convention hall of the Talkatora Stadium. In his speech, the veteran leader said: “The country has realised that the BJP and (Prime Minister) Modi need to go. That is why we, political parties across the country, together with the Congress, the big party, will have to come together under one umbrella… We will dedicate our efforts to make this happen.”
Tejashwi also devoted a large part of his speech to send out a message to the RJD support base to “amend behaviour”, particularly while dealing with the marginalised communities, implicitly acknowledging the dominating nature of the Yadavs whenever the party governs Bihar.
“We cannot bring small and backward classes to the mainstream without your cooperation. Do not hesitate to bend before them whenever you reach out to them. This is a party of A to Z. We are a party of backward, extremely backward, Dalits, minorities, progressives,” he said.
Lalu, who is headed for Singapore Monday for treatment, called out the recent action by the CBI against RJD leaders, saying it was linked to the RJD’s efforts to forge Opposition unity. “They have sent a CBI farman. And whenever we stand up, they send the CBI, ED after us to carry out raids. Will we be afraid of raids? Chaapa, chaapa maar raha hai, aapko chaap denge hum log. Jaise chapa jata tha na pehle, waise chapaya kar diya jayega (They are conducting raids, we will show them. Like we gave one slap earlier, the same way we will teach a lesson),” he said in his trademark style, to loud applause.
Lalu reiterated that only Tejashwi was authorised to speak on policy matters pertaining to the party. In fact, the arrangement was formalised with the convention adopting a resolution amending the party’s constitution, authorising only the father-son duo to take any decision on its name, poll symbol or any other issue.
Sunday, the first day of the convention, saw Tejashwi’s younger brother Tej Pratap throw a tantrum and walk out.
In his address, Tejashwi lambasted BJP MP Parvesh Verma over his remarks at an event on Sunday, seen as directed against a community. Such remarks could jeopardise the interests of Indians working in foreign countries, Tejashwi said.
“A BJP MP was sharing his wisdom that Hindus should not purchases anything from (them)… Muslims who hawk fruits, run gumtis (shacks). What kind of a mentality is that? Someone should tell him that most of our fuel supply comes from Islamic countries. So should we stop taking fuel? There is a large Indian populace in Islamic countries who earn their livelihoods there. If something like this happens there, in one stroke, crores of Indians will find themselves on the roads.”
Tejashwi, who in an interview to The Indian Express last month said that parties have to accept the fact that the Congress remains the largest Opposition party, said Monday, “We will try to bring everyone on one platform. Egos will have to be kept aside. This is not about selfish interests. This is a big battle to save democracy and the Constitution. There will be many conspiracies, but we will have to stay united… Regional parties fighting among themselves would be the biggest act of foolishness. In these times, either you are with the BJP or against.”