Patna: These Lok Sabha elections could be the pivotal moment that two ageing politicians in Bihar — Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, 70, and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, 76 — pass on the baton to the next generation.
For 25 years, because of their ability to hold sway over their respective communities — Yadavs and Paswans who together account for 20 per cent of Bihar’s voters — Prasad and Paswan promoted their kin and fiercely guarded their fiefdom, not allowing any sort of leadership to emerge from within their castes, and without.
Now, the succession plan seems to have all these hallmarks — apparent in the manner that the RJD developed cold feet over supporting former Jawaharlal Nehru University student president Kanhaiya Kumar, the Communist Party of India candidate from the Begusarai Parliamentary seat.
In the Grand Alliance’s seat-sharing announcement last week, the former Bihar chief minister didn’t find any place for Kumar, who is set to face Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s heavyweight Giriraj Singh and RJD’s Tanvir Hasan in the Lok Sabha elections.
The RJD chief’s motive to leave Kumar out in the cold to fight a lonely battle is transparent.
A senior retired RJD leader told ThePrint that Prasad’s move to field Tanvir Hasan, runner-up in the 2014 elections, is to “crush the political ambitions of Kanhaiya before he becomes too big politically”.
“The question was simply not due to just one seat. The RJD candidate Tanvir Hasan could have been shifted to Munger if the party had tried. But the real danger is that Kanhaiya poses a threat to Lalu’s heir Tejashwi Yadav due to his charismatic oratory skills,” said the retired RJD leader.
Also read: Kanhaiya Kumar’s political aspirations hit a kerb, Congress-RJD likely to dump him
Ever since Prasad came to power in Bihar in 1990, his family has been his support system in times of crisis. His two brothers-in-law, Sadhu Yadav and Subhash Prasad Yadav, wielded extra-constitutional authority during his rule as chief minister.
In 1996, when Prasad went to jail for the fodder scam, he made his wife Rabri Devi the chief minister. Opposition parties even named the RJD as “Saheb, Bibi aur Gulam” party.
Unfazed by criticism for promoting dynasty rule, Prasad has promoted his kin over the years — his two sons, Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav, have become MLAs and ministers in the state, while his eldest daughter Misa Bharati was made a Rajya Sabha MP after she was defeated from the Patliputra parliamentary seat in 2014.
At the time, Prasad ignored the counsel of his then ‘Hanuman’, or trusted aide, Ram Kripal Yadav, and fielded Bharati saying she’s the ‘bahu’ of Patliputra. Ram Kripal walked over to the BJP and defeated Bharati to go on to become a union minister.
More recently, Tej Pratap rebuked RJD MLA Bhai Birendar who expressed his wish to contest from the Patliputra constituency.
Tej Pratap said, “That seat belongs to Misa didi.”
Later, Tejashwi said in a statement that the matter will be finalised by Lalu Prasad.
“But there are no illusions in the party. For Lalu ji family comes first and he is ready to pay any cost,” said an RJD MLA who didn’t wish to be named.
RJD’s caste factor
Before the advent of Prasad, late Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav was considered the leader of Yadavs. He was nicknamed ‘Shere Bihar’.
However, after he came to power, Prasad took the fight to Ram Lakhan, and even publicly humiliated him.
“Lalu even ensured that other prominent Yadav leaders, like Anup Lal Yadav, Vinyak Yadav and Munshi Lal Rai, were sidelined,” said the retired RJD leader.
Ever since Prasad came to power, he has ensured that no other Yadav leader is able to replace him and in the process ensured that the Yadav caste votes stayed with him.
Also read: Lalu Prasad bends over backwards as Bihar alliance gets seat-sharing in place
Not just Kumar
In this election, Kumar is not the only leader RJD is unwilling to accommodate.
Sitting Madhepura MP Rajesh Ranjan, or Pappu Yadav, is also out of the reckoning. Despite his controversial background, Pappu has, in the past, proved that Yadavs can vote for him in defiance to the dictates of Prasad.
“He poses a threat to the hold Lalu has over Yadav caste in the Kosi zone,” said the RJD MLA.
Now, Pappu Yadav will be contesting Madhepura as an independent to try and play spoilsport for RJD candidate Sharad Yadav.
Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, the other Bihar stalwart who is currently in alliance with the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections, too considers his family as paramount.
For the upcoming elections, all three reserved seats for Scheduled Castes in the state, Hajipur, Samastipur and Jamui, will be contested by Paswan’s family — brothers Pashupati Kumar Paras and Ramchandra Paswan, and son and successor Chirag Paswan.
Recently, after Paswan criticised Prasad’s family politics, Tejashwi Yadav said, “No other Dalit leader can contest from a reserved seat in LJP except his family members”.
Overlooking other senior leaders in the LJP, the union minister has made Chirag the chairman of the party’s parliamentary board.
Senior leaders of both RJD and LJP dub their leaders’ sons as arrogant.
Also read: Samosas still have aloo but Bihar set for an election without Lalu
Prasad and Paswan relationship
Prasad and Paswan, two of the most prominent leaders from the state in the last three decades, have shared a tumultuous history.
They have been in and out of alliance with each other despite the fact that they don’t trust each other.
In 2004, Prasad took the railway ministry himself even though Paswan sought it for himself. A year later, Paswan didn’t allow Rabri Devi to become the chief minister when the state elections threw a hung assembly and he had 28 MLAs.
Both have also made uncharitable remarks against each other in the past.
“When Lalu ji comes for alliance his one hand is on your feet, the other is on your neck,” Paswan has said earlier.
Prasad too has called Paswan a “Mausam Vaigyanik” — a comment on the LJP leader’s ability to tell which way the political wind is blowing and align himself suitably.
However, ahead of this year’s general elections, both the leaders are looking to secure a smooth succession of power to their sons, especially with their power of ticket distribution.
Kanhaiya Kumar, at least for the time being, will have to rely on his oratory.
And yet, in spite of all the nepotism of Lalu and Paswan, our self certified liberals and secularists can’t have enough of them.
Netas reflect the society that elects them, can’t find fault with RJD, SP, DMK, TDP, TRS, NCP, Congress etc which are represent family enterprises and dynasties. Shame on the Indian voters who do not leave slave mentality even after 70 years of independence
Pathetic Dynasty Politics. Kanahiya Kumar should be behind bars for his tukde tukde rant inside jnu.
I can’t agree more with this article. RJD has agreed that NDA has done well and need another term. Giriraj SinghJi should be happy to even win from Begusarai and all thanks to mahagathbandhan in Bihar
Highly biased article away from ground realities of Begusarai
I wish Comrade Kanhaiya Kumar well. Thirty years from now, may he too have both a successful political career and a sprawling family to pass on his inheritance to.
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