RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav met BSP chief Mayawati Sunday, to try and forge an understanding between the parties in UP and Bihar for Lok Sabha polls.
Patna: Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav and Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son Akhilesh Yadav are trying to do something their fathers failed to do: Forge an understanding among regional forces in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that are opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi met Akhilesh Monday at the Samajwadi Party office. A day earlier, he had met Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati. Tejashwi’s trip came a day after Akhilesh and Maywati, bitter rivals until recently, formalised their alliance for Lok Sabha polls.
Extended warm Birthday greetings in advance to the person who deserves honor because of everything she has achieved in life.
Elders teaches us a ton when we grow up under their guidance. I wish many more years ahead, happiness & success to Honourable Mayawati Ji. Happy Birthday! pic.twitter.com/yNI4afTvF0
— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) January 14, 2019
“I am going to UP because both the BSP and the Samajwadi Party have taken a historic decision to join hands to take on the BJP,” Tejashwi had said ahead of the trip.
There is a possibility that Tejashwi may stay back in Lucknow to attend Mayawati’s birthday celebrations on 15 January.
“The sons, Tejashwi and Akhilesh Yadav, appear to have hit it off much better than their fathers,” said a former RJD MP, pointing out the “warm reception” Tejashwi had received from the former UP chief minister on earlier visits to Lucknow.
Tejashwi’s current visit to Lucknow, close associates said, is primarily aimed at fine-tuning opposition unity in UP and Bihar, which together account for 120, or 22 per cent, of the Lok Sabha’s 543 elected members. But there are other objectives as well, they added.
“It is also aimed at sending a message to the Congress, which is proving to be demanding in talks for seat-sharing,” the former RJD MP said.
“Recently, several Bihar Congress leaders have made public statements demanding 20 of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats,” he added. “The RJD wants to contain the Congress to 10 or even fewer seats.”
The 2014 Lok Sabha election had seen the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), then minus the JD(U), decimate the Congress, the RJD as well as Nitish’s party in the state.
While the NDA won 31 seats, the Congress got two of 12 contested, while the RJD won four of 27.
“Like UP, the Congress may be left out in the cold if it keeps demanding an exaggerated number of seats,” the former MP added, referring to the party’s exclusion from the SP-BSP alliance.
‘Wish come true’
After meeting Mayawati Sunday evening, Tejashwi described it as a courtesy visit.
“It was my father’s wish to see a larger alliance being formed in UP,” he said, “His wish has come true and coming to congratulate both of them is the least I could do,” he told ThePrint.
His close confidants, however, said Tejashwi had used the trip to “officially” convey to Mayawati Lalu’s desire that the BSP contest from Bihar’s Gopalganj reserved parliamentary seat.
“In the past, the BSP has fielded its candidates from all the parliamentary seats of Bihar. They have not succeeded in winning parliamentary seats but end up slicing secular votes,” a close aide of Tejashwi told ThePrint.
The BSP is a fringe player in Bihar, but the UP-based party is believed to enjoy significant popularity in areas bordering the state, including Gopalganj. The constituency’s incumbent MP, Janak Chamar of the BJP, is a former BSP leader who switched sides just before the 2014 elections.
The RJD has been trying to get on the right side of Mayawati for a long time. When Mayawati resigned from the Rajya Sabha in 2017 over the House’s refusal to let her complete her speech, Lalu offered to send her to the upper House from Bihar, an offer turned down by the former UP chief minister.
The party believes that having Mayawati on the side of the Bihar ‘grand alliance’ — which now includes the Congress, the RJD, the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), the Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S), the Loktantrik Janata Dal, the CPI and the CPI (M) — will serve as a counterfoil to the popularity of another Dalit leader, Ram Vilas Paswan of the Bihar-based Lok Janshakti Party, a BJP ally.
According to Tejashwi’s associates, he told Mayawati that Lalu also wanted her to hold a couple of meetings for grand alliance candidates during the 2019 campaign.
“Mayawati said that she would consider the offer,” a source added.
The failed effort
Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav, relatives by virtue of the marriage between the former’s daughter to the latter’s grandson, are two of the biggest political forces to emerge in the post-Mandal era.
However, their relationship has been a blow-hot-blow-cold affair as both the Yadav chieftans are believed to hold each other responsible for losing the Prime Minister’s chair to Janata Dal (Secular) H.D. Deve Gowda in 1996. The three leaders all head splinters of the erstwhile Janata Dal.
During the early days of the grand alliance in Bihar in 2015-16 — when Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) was a part of it — Nitish and Lalu had led efforts to merge Janata Dal splinters RJD, SP, JD(U), JD(S), INLD and other smaller parties into one fold, the Janata Parivar Party, under the same flag and electoral symbol.
However, the SP is said to have developed cold feet at the last moment and the merger could not take place.
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