Patna: In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s chosen heir, Tejashwi Yadav, 29, was touted as one of the most promising young leaders in the country. But a rout in the polls, in which his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) failed to win a single seat in Bihar, has led to questions being asked about Tejashwi’s leadership, even from within the party.
Ever since the poll results were declared Thursday, there have been veiled attacks on Tejashwi — who steered the opposition alliance’s campaign in Bihar — from some senior RJD leaders.
Former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who lost by a huge margin at the Vaishali Lok Sabha seat, blamed his defeat on the RJD’s opposition to the 10 per cent upper caste quota. “The decision to oppose upper caste reservation was self-destructive. I tried to rectify it but they declared that it was my personal opinion,” Singh said. “Reservation for upper castes was in the election manifesto of RJD in 2010. They did not even read it.”
Upper caste RJD candidates such as Singh and Jagdanand Singh, who contested from the Buxar parliamentary seat, bore the brunt of this stand as their own caste, the Rajputs, deserted them.
The grumbling isn’t confined to Raguvansh alone. Senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui, who was trounced by over 2 lakh votes at the Darbhanga parliamentary seat, hinted at the need to “revamp the party structure if it wanted to rejuvenate itself” while RJD MLA Surendra Yadav blamed a lack of co-ordination in the grand alliance for the loss.
“We made a grand alliance on paper. But at the ground level there was a complete break down between party workers of alliance partners,” said Yadav who was defeated at the Jehanabad Lok Sabha seat by a slim margin of a little over 1,700 votes.
Former union minister A.A. Fatimi, who quit the RJD after being denied a ticket from Madhubani, laid the blame squarely at the feet of Tejashwi. “If the grand alliance collapsed, it was due to the sheer arrogance of Tejashwi. He should have realised that by abusing Nitish Kumar as Paltu Chacha (turncoat uncle), votes do not increase, they decrease,” Fatimi said. “Tejashwi also made no efforts to hold meetings at Lok Sabha seats of grand alliance partners.”
RJD leaders have also been complaining that Tejashwi is ‘very different’ from his father Lalu Prasad Yadav. “Laluji used to meet party workers at his 10 Circular Road residence. He used to take feedback from them,” said an RJD MLA who did not want to be named. “Tejashwi does not meet any party worker and generally operates through two close confidantes.”
The MLA added that Tejashwi also gained a reputation of being a non-serious politician in the course of these elections. “Who skips five days of campaigning during the Lok Sabha polls and not bother to share the stage with Rahul Gandhi or any other grand alliance leader?” asked the MLA. “To top it all, he did not bother to cast his vote for a man he had campaigned for (Shatrughan Sinha in Patna Sahib).”
A drubbing in all senses
That the RJD failed to win even one of the 19 seats it contested in Bihar is just one half of the story. If the Lok Sabha showing is translated into assembly results, the NDA would have won 225 of the 243 assembly seats in Bihar.
Such was the RJD’s showing that the party led by a mere 242 votes in Tejashwi’s own assembly seat of Raghopur in the Hajipur Lok Sabha constituency. In all, the RJD led in just nine assembly segments across the state — it trailed in nearly 90 per cent of the assembly seats that are represented by its MLAs.
The RJD currently has 79 MLAs in the Bihar assembly.
To make matters worse, the party trailed by huge margins in assembly seats it considers its strongholds — Madhepura, Araria, Darbhanga and Madhubani among several others that all have a large population of its core voter base of Yadavs and Muslims.
Since the results, Tejashwi and other family members have been confined to 10 Circular Road. The RJD has called a two-day meeting on 28 and 29 May to review the causes of its humiliating defeat. With Lalu Prasad reportedly so upset that he has skipped lunch at RIMS Ranchi causing concern for his doctors, party leaders are even more demoralised.
“The easy way out is to blame communalism and EVMs for the defeat,” said an RJD leader. “But Tejashwi will have to answer if he is capable of steering the party to a credible performance in the assembly polls that is around 18 months away.”