Is the Rashtriya Janata Dal still a force to reckon with in the state? It emerged as the single largest party in 2015 but since then Lalu Yadav has been convicted and is in jail, the alliance with Nitish Kumar failed and in the Lok Sabha election in 2019, RJD made no difference to the electoral fortune of the Grand Alliance.
While the party is still identified with Lalu Prasad and his family, it remains doubtful if the inheritor of Lalu Prasad’s political mantle, youngest son Tejashwi Yadav (30) can on his own retain the support his father once enjoyed. He has shown a lot of promise but is deemed to be too young and too inexperienced for the rough and tumble of Bihar’s politics. To install him as the deputy chief minister at a young age in 2015, when he was barely 25, might have been a political mistake, say some observers.
Tejashwi, the leader of the opposition in the Assembly, however, has been an effective speaker, has made good use of social media and is generally liked for being soft-spoken and a good listener unlike his father.
The RJD president, however, is now Jagadanand Singh, a Rajput leader and old Lalu Prasad loyalist and minister known for his integrity and businesslike ways. He has been trying to enforce his own style of discipline on the party, getting the party battle-ready.
Tejashwi is said to be helmed by too many of his father’s associates. The uncles are calling the shots and Tejashwi has ceded ground, complain some of his supporters.
The uncles are not on the same page though. While Jagadanand is being appreciated for tightening loose ends and getting rid of the dead wood, the ‘overdose’ of discipline has put off another uncle and Rajput leader, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.
While Raghuvansh babu is said to be in favour of some kind of adjustment with Nitish Kumar in the next election, a third uncle Shivanand Tiwari is not said to be enthusiastic. He supports Jagadanand’s attempts to clear the cobwebs though. The party seems to acknowledge that the old M-Y (Muslim-Yadav) support base will not work and that the party needs to appeal to a wider section of people and broaden the support base.
Lalu Prasad’s large family, however, could well prove to be a liability. Besides the political ambitious eldest daughter Misa Bharati and wife Rabri Devi, a former chief minister, the elder son Tej Pratap has been erratic and unpredictable. In the Lok Sabha election, he supported three rebel candidates. And his marriage, separation and divorce proceedings have provided enough fodder for gossip and have embarrassed the family.
The political situation remains fluid in the state. And much will depend on whether the BJP-JD(U) alliance remains intact till the election and whether RJD-Congress and the Left come together or are able to stitch together an alliance of smaller parties and communities. Much will also depend on how Lalu Prasad manages his family.