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Sons in Bihar cabinet, daughters wed to Mulayam kin — sprawling Lalu family tree spans party lines

Many of Lalu and Rabri's 9 children are in politics or married into political families. The eldest son-in-law has courted criticism for accompanying Tej Pratap to meetings.

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Patna: During a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) rally in the 1990s, when Lalu Prasad Yadav was the Bihar Chief Minister, enthusiastic supporters had put up billboards in Patna declaring his then teenaged sons — Tej Pratap and Tejashwi — “Yuwao ke Yuvraj (prince of the youths)”. The move hadn’t gone down well with Lalu, who had declared, “My sons are not into politics and I will punish those who put up these billboards”.

About three decades later, the RJD president’s younger son Tejashwi Yadav is the deputy CM of Bihar, while the elder, Tej Pratap Yadav, is the minister for environment, forest and climate change. His eldest daughter Misa Bharti is a Rajya Sabha MP, and his wife and former CM Rabri Devi is a member of the Bihar Legislative Council.

Indeed, Lalu had realised the importance of having family support in politics early in his career.

Towards the end of 2014, as Bihar CM Nitish Kumar started showing signs of being at odds with Jitan Ram Manjhi, a man he had been instrumental in getting in the CM’s chair only months before, Lalu had commented with an amused look on his face. “See you people criticised me because I made my wife the CM,” the RJD chief said in a reference to Rabri Devi taking oath as CM when he was forced to resign in 1997 after an arrest warrant was issued against him in the fodder scam case. 

Last week, as the RJD chief’s eldest son-in-law — Misa Bharti’s husband Shailesh Kumar, an IT engineer who also holds an MBA degree from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad — drew barbs from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for accompanying Tej Pratap to his official meetings.

Former Bihar BJP minister Janak Ram had said that there is a tradition of jija-saala’ (brothers-in-law) rule in the RJD, recalling “extra-constitutional” powers once wielded by Rabri Devi’s brothers Sadhu and Subhash Yadav.

The Yadav family has been movers and shakers in Bihar’s politics for over three decades now, and is related to the politically influential Yadav families in UP and Haryana across party lines through matrimonial relations.

The patriarch of Bihar politics and his wife have seven daughters and two sons. A look at their political presence.

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Misa Bharti: Lalu and Rabri’s eldest daughter is named after the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), 1971, under which the RJD leader was once jailed.

Misa completed her MBBS from Patna Medical College and Hospital. Her political initiation began in 2014, when she contested the Lok Sabha polls from Pataliputra but lost. She again lost the 2019 parliamentary elections from the same seat. Misa is currently serving her second term as a Rajya Sabha member.

In 1999, she married Shailesh Kumar, who now has his own business. The couple is accused in a money laundering case.

Rohini Acharya: Lalu’s second daughter got her second name, Acharya, after the doctor who had helped deliver her, according to RJD sources. She, too, completed her MBBS and is married to software engineer Rao Samresh Singh. The couple is settled in Singapore.

So far, Rohini’s political activities have been restricted to her social media posts. She has been known to often tweet in support of her family members and against the BJP.

Chanda Yadav: Lalu’s third daughter is a law graduate, who is married to pilot Vikram Singh. She has, so far, maintained a low-profile and has been mostly seen only during family functions.

Ragini Yadav: The former Bihar CM’s fourth daughter, an engineering drop-out, is married to former Samajwadi Party MLA Rahul Yadav. He is distantly related to Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.

According to the affidavit submitted by Rahul ahead of the 2022 Uttar Pradesh elections, he is a businessman with assets worth Rs 100 crore.

Hema Yadav: Lalu and Rabri’s fifth daughter is an engineer by qualification, married to Delhi-based businessman Vineet Yadav. Vineet, too, is known to dabble in politics and is associated with the Samajwadi Party. Last month, Hema’s name cropped up in the ‘land for job’ scam being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It has been alleged that she received land worth Rs 61 lakh from a railway employee.

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Anushka aka Dhannu: The former Bihar CM’s sixth daughter has done a course in interior designing and is married to former Haryana Congress minister Ajay Singh Yadav’s son Chiranjeev. Like his father, Chiranjeev is also involved in politics. So far, Anushka’s political activities have been restricted to campaigning for family members.

Tej Pratap Yadav: The elder of the two sons has often left his family red-faced. The Bihar minister is a college drop-out. According to JD(U) sources, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar was instrumental in getting him admitted to a pilot training course, but he didn’t complete that either. His election affidavits only mention that he has completed higher secondary.

He became an MLA for the first time in 2015, and was made Bihar health minister in 2017.

Tej Pratap married Aishwarya Rai, granddaughter of late Bihar CM Daroga Prasad Rai, in May 2018. There were talks of divorce within months, leading to strained relations with his family. Ahead of the 2019 general elections, he appealed to people to not vote for his father-in-law Chandrika Rai after he received an RJD ticket.

Upset with his aides not getting tickets, he had also taken pot-shots at his younger brother Tejashwi in public ahead of that election.

Tej Pratap, however, seems to have mellowed with time. He was made the minister of environment, forest and climate change in the Grand Alliance government.

Tejashwi Yadav: The eighth among the Yadav siblings, Tejashwi, has over the years emerged as Lalu’s political heir.

The Bihar deputy CM’s first love was cricket. Tejashwi was a member of the Delhi Daredevil team of the Indian Premier League (IPL), though he remained the 12th man.

When his cricketing career failed to take off, he was brought into politics by Lalu in 2009. Tejashwi spent time observing his father in public meetings and learning from him, before leaping into the poll fray in 2015. He became the deputy CM in the Nitish Kumar government, as part of the then Grand Alliance.

It was in 2018, however, when Lalu was jailed in the fodder scam that he had to take responsibility of the party.

The initial performance was disastrous. The RJD failed to win a single seat under him in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. A frustrated Tejashwi left Patna for Delhi, not even caring to attend the Bihar assembly in which he was the Leader of the Opposition.

He managed to turn himself around in the 2020 Bihar election, almost managing to defeat the JDU-BJP combine by getting 111 seats, but was brought down by the poor performance of the Congress.

In the present alliance with the JD(U), he has 79 MLAs and the solid support of the Left and Congress MLAs. Political observers believe he is poised to be the next Bihar chief minister — the youngest at 35 if he makes it in 2024.

Last year, he married his long-time friend Rachel Godinho in an intimate ceremony. She is now known as Rajshri Yadav.

While some in the political circles had speculated about the adverse effect of marriage outside the Yadav caste on his career, RJD leaders had refuted such possibilities.

Raj Laxmi Yadav: Youngest among the Yadav siblings, Raj Laxmi was born after Lalu became the Bihar CM in 1990. A photo of Lalu holding Raj Laxmi in his arms, waiting for his turn for a medical check-up had gone viral in the early 1990s.

She married Mulyam Singh Yadav’s grand-nephew Tej Pratap Singh Yadav in a high-profile ceremony in Delhi in 2015, which was attended by PM Narendra Modi.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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