Patna: Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal plunged into a crisis Tuesday as five senior leaders who were members of the Bihar Legislative Council (MLCs) joined the ruling Janata Dal (United).
On the same day, RJD vice-president and former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh also resigned, protesting against the entry of Rama Kishore Singh, who had defeated him in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as a Lok Jan Shakti Party candidate.
The immediate fallout of the rebellion in the RJD was the removal of Rabri Devi as the leader of opposition in the 75-member council or Vidhan Parishad, as the party’s strength came down to three from eight. Party sources said it might be the beginning of the unravelling of the RJD ahead of the assembly elections in November.
Many leaders in the RJD have been unhappy with the way Tejashwi Yadav has been running the party in the absence of his father, Lalu Yadav, who is lodged in a Ranchi jail in the fodder scam case.
“The RJD had eight MLCs and now has only three,” Vidhan Parishad acting chairman Awadhesh Narayan Singh told ThePrint. The MLCs will not be disqualified for defecting since they account for more than half the party’s strength in the House.
‘No activity and no hope’
The swift development took the RJD by surprise. The five MLCs — Radhacharan Seth, Sanjay Prasad, Ranvijay Singh, Kamare Alam and Dilip Rai — assembled at the house of JD(U) MP Lalan Singh in the morning, and were taken to the Vidhan Parishad where they submitted their applications, which were accepted immediately.
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Later, they went to the residence of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is also the president of JD(U), to be welcomed into the party fold.
“The RJD is virtually dead. There has been no activity and no hope. Nitish Kumar continues to drive Bihar on the path of development,” Sanjay Prasad told ThePrint.
Lalan Singh labelled the MLCs’ resignation from the RJD as “freedom” from Lalu and family.
The defection caused surprise in the RJD, and what would hurt more is that the list included MLCs considered close to Lalu, such as Kamre Alam, a Delhi-based businessman, and Radhacharan Seth, who is in the construction business.
“The desertion will not have any effect on assembly polls. Legislators come and go before assembly polls. But these MLCs have been taken away on the strength of money and power. It is for all parties to worry,” remarked state RJD chief Jagdanand Singh.
Tejashwi, who met Governor Phagu Chauhan Tuesday with a delegation to present a memorandum on Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe quota in the context of recent rulings by the Supreme Court, said the people of Bihar “will teach Nitish Kumar a lesson during the elections”.
“Instead of focusing on development, Nitish Kumar is focusing on breaking up rival parties,” remarked Tejashwi, the leader of the opposition in the assembly, and formerly Nitish’s deputy CM.
RJD leaders, however, said privately that Nitish had conducted a “surgical strike” on the party, and the leadership was “clueless”.
That was not the end of the bad news for the RJD, as one of its most senior leaders and former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh submitted his resignation as its national vice-president.
Singh was angry over former MP and his rival Rama Kishore Singh’s meeting with Tejashwi, after it was reported that he would join the RJD on 29 June and contest the assembly polls.
Rama had defeated Raghuvansh in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Vaishali, and after his defeat, Raghuvansh had petitioned the Election Commission alleging that the victor had concealed facts in his affidavit on a kidnapping case that had allegedly taken place in Chhattisgarh.
Following this application, the Chhattisgarh government took cognisance of the case and Rama Singh had been put behind bars for almost three years.
“It’s like hell in the party — tickets are being sold for money. I personally blocked Rama Singh’s entry into the party twice. But after this, I cannot hold this post,” Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told ThePrint.
The senior leader is currently undergoing treatment at AIIMS, Patna, after being found Covid-positive. “I have more to say after I am out of the hospital,” he said.
Tejashwi’s leadership questioned
Sadhu Yadav, Lalu’s estranged brother-in-law and Tejashwi’s uncle, a former RJD MP, called the party “leaderless”. Sadhu has been out-of-favour with the Yadav family for over a decade now, but while Lalu and Rabri ruled Bihar as chief ministers, Sadhu and his brother Subhash called the shots in the party and the government.
“The state of the RJD is like a deserted and abandoned house where someone takes the fan, someone takes out door, and someone else takes the window. The party is leaderless,” he said, in a direct attack at his nephew.
But even current RJD leaders agree with Sadhu in private.
“Out of the 80 MLAs, more than 60 have no access to Tejashwi. Whenever he calls a meeting of legislators, many fail to attend it. He has made changes in party structure, leading to more dissent from those who were dropped. There is a sinking feeling within the party,” said an RJD MLA, who predicted that at least 15 of its 58 MLAs will jump ship before November’s assembly polls.
In any case, the run-up to the polls is peak season for switching sides, as many legislators seek more electoral security. But another RJD MLA said closed-door talks have begun for many.
“Switching parties rarely affects the voting pattern. It is more of a psychological battle started before the elections to demoralise the supporters of rival parties. And to this end, Nitish Kumar has gained the upper hand before the assembly polls,” this MLA said.
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