The old guard of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is rallying around Lalu Prasad Yadav’s elder son, Tej Pratap Yadav, with an eye on tickets for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, leading to a major rift in the Lalu family.

Sources said Lalu Yadav’s younger son Tejashwi Yadav, who has been made the political heir by his father, is working on reforming the party by giving prominence to leaders who do not have any criminal background. “He wants to change the image of the party, identifying good leaders of the new generation who could be fielded in the Lok Sabha elections. However, the old guard is resisting the move,” said a source.

“The old guard, many of whom have a dubious track record, wants to maintain status quo, and, therefore, is resisting the move to ‘cleanse’ the party organisation. These forces see a ray of hope in Tej Pratap, who, they think, can ensure that they remain entrenched in the organisation. This has resulted in a tug-of-war between the two Yadav siblings—Tejashwi and his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav,” sources said. They added “that was the reason why Lalu had to cut short his stay in hospital in Mumbai and come to Patna to resolve the differences”.

Lalu Yadav returned to Patna after spending 21 days in the hospital where he underwent surgery for fistula and was treated for a host of other ailments. The RJD chief is out of jail on a six-week provisional bail. He has been sentenced to jail terms for more than 27 years following his conviction in four cases in the multi-crore fodder scam.

The family tussle was going on for a long time, but was kept under the wraps when the party was in power. However, it got intensified after the fall of the Mahagathbandhan government last year. As the RJD is getting ready for the Lok Sabha elections, the rift is out in the open, with forces opposed to Tejashwi’s style of functioning, flexing their muscles, using Tej Pratap as the shield.

The family tussle came out in the open when Tej Pratap’s name was omitted from the list of dignitaries for attending the RJD’s foundation day celebrations recently. However, a number of posters were put up at the party’s state headquarters and at the venue of the function, featuring all family members active in politics. The posters also featured Tej Pratap’s wife Aishwarya.

Ever since the 2015 Assembly elections, Lalu Yadav had made it clear that Tejashwi would be his political heir. After the Grand Alliance government was formed with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United, Tejashwi was made Deputy Chief Minister, while Tej Pratap had to remain content with a Cabinet berth. At present, Tejaswhi is the Leader of the Opposition, while Tej Pratap is an MLA. Lalu has also declared that Tejashwi would be the Chief Ministerial candidate of the party.

“Three of Lalu’s children—Tejashwi, Tej Pratap and Misa Bharti—are active in politics but it is Tejashwi who is in the limelight. Misa Bharti is a member of the Rajya Sabha. Misa knows that she has a limited role in the Lalu family. But Tejashwi and Tej Pratap continue to flex their muscles for control over the party,” said sources.

During the foundation day celebrations, Tej Pratap said: “Tejashwi is going to Delhi and I will take care of the party in his absence. I am like Lord Krishna and Tejashwi is my Arjun, who will fight the demons.” He also declared himself as the senior-most leader during the event.

The extent of the rift could be understood from the fact that Tej Pratap took to social media slamming the way the party was being run. On Facebook he threatened to quit politics. However, after being persuaded, he removed the post and alleged that the JDU had hacked his account to create a rift between the two brothers.