Patna: Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s alleged efforts to woo the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in a bid to form a non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), non-Congress front at the national level seem to have elicited an unenthusiastic response from Tejashwi Yadav, ThePrint has learnt.
According to sources in the RJD, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief flew Yadav aboard a chartered plane from Patna to Hyderabad earlier this week as he sought to get the latter on board for a Third Front. However, Yadav remained non-committal.
Sources said the talks revolved around south Indian states as well Maharashtra and an alliance that could defeat both the BJP and the Congress.
“You are young. Do something for the country,” KCR is believed to have told Yadav. But the RJD leader reminded the Telangana CM that the Congress was the RJD’s oldest ally.
Towards the end of the meet, KCR spoke to Yadav for a few minutes in a separate room. Yadav didn’t reveal the details of this conversation to other RJD leaders, the sources said.
“We flew at 11 am from Patna and returned at 7 pm the same day (Tuesday). The meeting lasted for a couple of hours but we have been asked not to speak about it,” RJD MLC Sunil Singh told ThePrint.
“After the invitation came, Tejashwi spoke to Lalu ji. Lalu ji told him to go as it would improve his stature in national politics. But at the same time he asked Tejashwi not to give any commitment. He did exactly that,” said a senior RJD leader who didn’t wish to be named.
After the meeting, the office of the Telangana CM tweeted that the meeting was a “courtesy call”.
— Telangana CMO (@TelanganaCMO) January 11, 2022
KCR’s ‘alliance efforts’
The meeting came amid continued efforts by KCR to cobble up an anti-BJP, anti-Congress alliance. Last month, he went to Chennai to hold talks with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), also a Congress ally. However, both sides maintained that it was just a courtesy call.
The meeting came just after West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee dismissed the Congress and UPA as a viable alternative to the BJP.
Earlier this month, top Communist leaders like Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja also met KCR.
Once considered a ‘friendly opposition’ to the Narendra Modi government, KCR is now facing increasing heat from the BJP, which is seeking to improve its footprints in south India, with Telangana being a prime target. On Wednesday, KCR called for the ouster of the BJP from the Centre, criticising the manner in which it handled the farmers issue.
RJD’s dilemma over Congress
The Congress-RJD alliance owes its origins to the Vajpayee government’s decision to dismiss the Rabri Devi government of Bihar in February 1999, after a massacre of 12 Dalits took place in Jehanabad district.
The Congress refused to back the dismissal call and the move could not make it through the Rajya Sabha.
Since then, the two parties have been contesting elections together. There was a brief distancing during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls when the Congress was upset with RJD supremo Lalu Prasad over the fact that he left only 3 Lok Sabha seats for it to contest in Bihar. The Congress went solo and managed to defeat the RJD in a dozen seats. Lalu later conceded that ignoring the Congress proved costly.
The relationship went through a trough again after the 2020 assembly elections, when the Congress won only 19 of the 70 seats it contested under the Grand Alliance. RJD leaders openly held the Congress responsible for the defeat. In the by-polls for two assembly seats held a couple of months ago, the two parties contested independently. Even in the upcoming elections of MLCs, the parties are fighting separately.
However, the relationship has stood the test of time.
“Despite the war of words among state leaders, the relationship between Tejashwi and Lalu with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi is still excellent. Lalu ji was the first political leader to defend Sonia Gandhi against BJP’s foreign citizen attack,” a second senior RJD leader said on condition of anonymity.
“The Congress bailed out the RJD government. The RJD was an integral part of UPA-1 and remained an ally of Congress in UPA-2. The Congress backed RJD against Nitish in 2017 (when the JD-U split from its alliance with Congress-RJD),” the leader added.
Explaining why the RJD can’t make a commitment to KCR, the leader said, “The Congress may have weakened but they still can create havoc if they contest independently. For the RJD, it is very difficult to completely ignore the Congress.”
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)