Patna: The old guard in the RJD, who have known its chief Lalu Prasad Yadav from his student politics days, have been feeling left out for quite some time now.
The senior leaders, who were once almost central to Bihar politics, however, don’t blame Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav for being side-lined — but Lalu himself.
“What is happening in the party is not because of Tejashwi. All decisions are still taken by Lalu. It’s just that Lalu’s priority is his family now and not social justice or ensuring that his old colleagues are not insulted,” said a senior RJD leader, who didn’t want to be named.
Thursday, 10 September, was a bad day for the RJD as one of its very senior leaders, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who was expected to be with Lalu until his last day, announced that he quit.
“I have been standing behind you ever since the demise of (former Bihar CM) Karpoori Thakur for the last 32 years. But not anymore,” wrote the 75-year-old former Union minister in a letter to Lalu, asking for forgiveness from RJD leaders and workers, and declaring that he was no longer with the party that he helped form.
Singh is currently admitted in the ICU of AIIMS, Delhi for his post-Covid treatment.
By evening, a reply from Lalu to Singh went viral on social media.
We will talk once you are well. You are not going anywhere: RJD leader Lalu Yadav in a letter to Raghuvansh Prasad Singh
Raghuvansh Prasad Singh had resigned from the party, earlier today and is currently admitted at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi. pic.twitter.com/wGu68MTsCJ
— ANI (@ANI) September 10, 2020
“I saw a letter run by the media and I could not believe it. For now, my family and the RJD family want you to be with us after fully recovering. For four decades, we have discussed political, social and family issues. Get well soon. We will sit and talk then,” wrote Lalu in the letter, which had the stamp of the superintendent of Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi.
RJD leaders told ThePrint they have been asked not to make public statements on the issue.
“It is a last-ditch effort of Laluji to keep Raghuvansh babu in the party. But if he leaves, it will be a tragedy ahead of the polls. After Laluji, he is the tallest leader in the party known for his integrity and loyalty. Though he may have lost elections, he still commands respect across all parties,” said an RJD MLA, requesting anonymity.
Why Singh felt left out
Singh has been feeling isolated ever since the RJD’s defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
At a party meeting held at 10 Circular Road, the official residence of former CM and Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi, after the Lok Sabha debacle, Singh demanded the expulsion of Lalu’s eldest son Tej Pratap Yadav as he fielded his own candidates against RJD nominees. But his suggestion was not paid heed to.
Earlier this year, he wrote a letter to Lalu, demanding a change in the functioning of the party and was openly critical about Tejashwi Yadav disappearing for more than 4 months after the Lok Sabha defeat. The party did not respond to his letter.
The final nail in the coffin came when the RJD inducted don-turned politician Rama Singh and agreed to field him as a candidate in this assembly election. Rama Singh had defeated Raghuvansh in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as an LJP candidate.
“He would not have left, but he was getting insulted on a daily basis and Lalu did nothing about it,” said a close confidante of the former Union minister.
Singh not alone
Singh is not the only senior leader feeling left out in the RJD. Party’s national vice-president Shivanand Tiwari is another such leader, who, although is still with the RJD, has stopped going to the party office in Patna.
Another veteran leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui, who is currently hospitalised after testing Covid-positive, also does not go to party office unless called, said RJD sources.
“Lalu has made every decision like selecting Rajya Sabha and parishad (legislative council) candidates on his own. He never consulted us on candidates or who to make an alliance with. Here in Patna, I find many ticket aspirants waiting outside for hours and Tejashwi does not bother to even meet them,” said a second senior RJD leader.
Family comes first
For the RJD chief, family comes above the party as has been seen in the last six years.
In 2014, he gave the ticket of Patliputra Lok Sabha seat to his daughter Misa Bharati, ignoring claims of his loyalist Ram Kripal Yadav. He then joined the BJP and has defeated Misa twice since.
Lalu then sent Misa to the Rajya Sabha, but did nothing for senior leaders like Singh, who was also defeated in 2014.
In 2019, Tej Pratap Yadav went to Saran and campaigned against his father-in-law Chandrika Rai, the then official candidate of the party. He had said that Saran was a family seat and Chandrika was an outsider. But Lalu did nothing to stop Tej Pratap.
In 2019, Lalu had asked former Union minister and senior leader A.A. Fatimi to contest from the Madhubani parliamentary seat. But Tejashwi declared that Fatimi will not be given a ticket and is free to leave the party.
An angry Fatimi left soon after and joined the JD(U), and Lalu again did nothing to stop him.
It seems that the RJD is now going to face the upcoming assembly elections with most of its senior leaders either gone out of the party or keeping a low profile.
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