Tejashwi Yadav was able to convince his father that Nitish Kumar’s re-entry would not be in the party’s interest.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was initially ready to welcome Nitish Kumar into the Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan), finally went by the advice of his son Tejashwi Yadav to keep Janata Dal United (JDU) out. Amid speculation of Nitish Kumar deserting the NDA, Tejaswhi Yadav made it clear there was no question of Kumar’s re-entry into the Grand Alliance, and that the doors were closed for him. However, Lalu, initially, did not approve of this stand. He wanted to bring Nitish Kumar back into the Grand Alliance, keeping in mind the larger interest of defeating the BJP. Congress leaders also shared the same opinion. However, an RJD source said Tejashwi was able to convince his father that Nitish’s re-entry would not be in the party’s interest. He explained to his father the experience he had during his state-wide visit after the JDU deserted the alliance last year, at the grassroots level.
“There was a strong feeling at the grassroots that the mandate was ‘hijacked’ and the people felt ‘cheated’. With such a mood prevailing, it would not be wise for the party to welcome him for small political gains,” Tejashwi told his father, according to the source.
The source said there was absolutely no rift between Tejashwi and Lalu and both are on the same page on the issue. He said Tejashwi believes that expansion of the party is equally important as defeating the BJP. “In the long run, we want to emerge as the only regional force in Bihar. The RJD is working on the strategy to consolidate its position without anybody’s support,” said the source.
In the 2015 Assembly elections, the situation was different. The RJD was on the margins. It needed CM Nitish’s support to revive itself. The Mahagathbandhan projected Nitish Kumar’s face and came to power, while RJD emerged as the largest party. Despite RJD being the bigger party, it did not ask for the Chief Minister’s post. “However, much water has flown down the Ganga since then. JDU has become unreliable, especially after it joined the NDA. On the other hand, RJD has consolidated its position in the last three years. The recent success in the byelections is a pointer that the party will play a much bigger role in the days to come,” said an RJD leader. Though Congress and a section within the RJD believe that the JDU should be welcomed back into the Mahagathbandhan to defeat the BJP, Tejashwi strongly feels that the party should take the centre stage of Bihar politics, even if it is at the cost of JDU. “We would like Bihar politics to be centred around RJD and not JDU. We are moving in that direction. It will be RJD vs BJP fight in future, while JDU will be decimated,” he said.
“In any case, we have set our goals right. We want to see Tejaswhi Yadav as Chief Minister after the 2020 Assembly elections. JDU has the least chances of expansion as it does not have any strong social base, except among Kurmis and Koeris, who are 3%-4% of the state’s population. Moreover, Nitish Kumar’s credibility among Muslims has taken a nosedive due to his flip-flops. RJD has a strong social base of Yadavs and Muslims, who together constitute more than 30% voters. RJD also has the backing of people from the backward castes and Dalits,” the RJD leader claimed.