With the ailing patriarch lodged in a Ranchi jail, far away from the scene of political action in Bihar, the RJD’s reins are with his son and political heir Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, 30, who, so far, has been finding it difficult to come out of his father’s formidable shadow.
It was Lalu Prasad’s decision not to give too much weightage to smaller parties such as the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), which saw these parties eventually walking out of the RJD-led Grand Alliance.
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With his party drawing a blank in the last Lok Sabha election, Lalu Prasad knows the RJD has no time to lose. He also realises that his party was able to win 80 seats in the 2015 Assembly election only because of the combined strength of his strong social base and Nitish Kumar’s leadership.
While the RJD will have to be prepared for a post-poll churn in Bihar politics, this time around, after the failed experiement with the JD(U) in 2015, there’s a clear trust deficit with Nitish Kumar.
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The JP Movement had shaped Lalu, who strove hard amid stalwarts like Karpoori Thakur, Ram Sundar Das and even Ram Vilas Paswan (who passed away this week) to make his way to 1, Anne Marg, Patna.
Much water has flowed under the bridge in the years since. While the last three decades of Bihar politics have been dominated first by Lalu Prasad and then by Nitish Kumar, a new, younger generation of leaders are pushing at the limits of their socialist politics.
The onus is now on Tejashwi to tie in the development theme to his father’s socialist and secular rhetoric. Following the 1989 Bhagalpur riots and the rise of Lalu Prasad in 1990, the state’s 17 per cent Muslim votes had largely shifted to Lalu, adding to the dominant Yadav votes (about 14 per cent). Tejashwi can’t depend on this math, especially with the BJP seeking to win over OBCs and EBCs on a common, larger Hindu platform.
Making his electoral debut in 2015 from Raghopur (Vaishali district), Tejashwi, a former cricketer, has been in active politics only for seven years. He became the deputy chief minister (2015-17) under Nitish Kumar, until, in 2017, he was booked in the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp.) case. This election, with the burden of the RJD’s revival on Tejashwi’s shoulders, he will hope that with the LJP walking out of NDA, a three-way fight will benefit his party.
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