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Why a surprise move at RJD national meet has Bihar buzzing about party’s merger with JD(U)

RJD resolution empowering Lalu or Tejashwi to decide on party name change seen as precursor to merger, paving way for Tejashwi to hold reins of Bihar while Nitish takes national role.

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Patna: The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) passing a resolution to give its president Lalu Prasad Yadav or his son and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav the power to change the name and symbol of the party has set Bihar’s political circles abuzz.

The move is being seen as the RJD setting the stage for its likely merger with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), which would mean Tejashwi holding the reins in Bihar while chief minister Nitish moves on to play a role in national politics.

“I propose that the change in the name of Rashtriya Janata Dal or its electoral symbol [a hurricane lantern] and allied issues will be decided by RJD national president Lalu Prasad or RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav. Their decision will be final,” read out Lalu’s trusted aide Bhola Yadav at the RJD’s two-day national executive and council meeting that concluded Monday.

Though the resolution caught party leaders by surprise, they did vote to pass it. “This was not on the agenda and came up suddenly,” a senior RJD leader told ThePrint.

RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari, however, said, “The party is solidly behind Tejashwi Yadav and we will follow his every diktat. The JD(U)-RJD merger is not beyond the realm of possibility.”

Speaking to ThePrint on the possible merger, an RJD minister said: “After all, both parties have their roots in the same ideology. Ever since the two parties got together in August this year, there were talks of Nitish Kumar leaving Patna for Delhi politics. It is just a matter of time. JD(U) without Nitish Kumar in Bihar has no meaning.”

“It will be beneficial for Nitish also that he will have the support of a strong political base when he goes to Delhi,” added the minister, who wished to not be named due to a purported gag order on RJD leaders against speaking about the alliance.

The JD(U), however, is maintaining silence on the matter. “The resolution is an internal development of the RJD. We do not have any information about a merger,” said JD(U) MLC Neeraj Kumar.

At the RJD’s national executive meeting, the entire show, sources said, was about Tejashwi. Lalu is believed to have announced that all decisions regarding the party’s policies will be taken by Tejashwi.

Moreover, it was Tejashwi and not Lalu who delivered the key address, asking RJD followers to accommodate persons of all castes and sections in the party, the sources added. And though Lalu left for Singapore Wednesday for his kidney related treatment, nobody has any doubts about whom to follow in the party president’s absence.

Ever since the Mahagathbandhan government came into existence in August, the feeling in political circles has been that Nitish will give way to Tejashwi as CM of Bihar. In fact, RJD leaders like Jagdanand Singh have gone on record to say that Tejashwi will replace Nitish in 2023, reportedly leading to friction between JD(U) and RJD leaders.

Consequently, Tejashwi had to step in to declare that he is “in no hurry”. “Tejashwi wants the transition to be smooth and he has time in his hand,” said another RJD minister.

Also read: How to beat JD(U)-RJD caste maths? BJP to focus on EBCs & Mahadalits, hunt for ‘vibrant’ leader

The old ‘Janata Parivar’

Rumours of a resurrection of the old Janata Dal of the 1990s have also been doing the rounds. The Janata Dal, by the late 1990s, had broken up several times. The RJD, the Samata Party, the Samajwadi Party (SP) in UP, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana, the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Jayant Chaudhary are all splinters of the erstwhile Janata Dal.

In 2015, when Nitish Kumar was with Lalu, efforts were made for a merger of the ‘Janata Parivar’ to take on the growing influence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Three rounds of talks were held in Delhi. However, the late Mulayam Singh Yadav is believed to have developed cold feet at the last moment because the SP’s assets were much larger than those of any of the other parties.

Even when Nitish rejoined the NDA, he did not abandon his mission completely he is believed to have asked then national vice-president of JD(U) Prashant Kishor to hold talks with the Janata Parivar.

“After 2017, there were appeals from the RJD to Nitish to return to them as CM. At that time, Nitish had more MLAs than the BJP and he did not give it any serious thought, but after the 2020 assembly polls, when his number of MLAs dropped to 43 due to the [Lok Janshakti Party’s] ‘Chirag model’, he was convinced that the BJP was out to finish him off,” said D.M. Diwakar, former director of A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies in Patna.

“The merger of the RJD and JD(U) will be a natural political phenomenon. The resolution in Delhi was a culmination of these undercurrents,” he added.

‘Nitish has no other option’

According to BJP MP and former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, the JD(U) will likely merge with the RJD because “Nitish Kumar has no other option”.

“Nitish has been wooing [INLD’s] Om Prakash Chautala and [SP’s] Akhilesh Yadav apart from JD(S). However, Nitish hopes to bring major parties under one party so that he can be the leader of a large block in Delhi,” he said.

BJP sources said the merger is expected to insulate the JD(U). The RJD and JD(U)’s combined tally is 125 in the 243-member assembly.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: Decline in popularity main reason why Nitish Kumar snapped ties with BJP, says Sushil Modi


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