PATNA: Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav on Thursday raised eyebrows by not mentioning the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s name among the leaders of non-NDA parties who would be key to defeating the BJP in 2019.
“If Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal and Priyanka Gandhi come together, then no one can stop us in 2019,” Yadav said in his speech at RJD’s foundation day event.
“He (Yadav) named Priyanka Gandhi and even her husband Robert Vadra, but not Rahul Gandhi. The seasoned politician that he is, he speaks everything with a reason behind,” said an RJD leader close to Yadav. The RJD chief “certainly relies more on Priyanka” than Rahul Gandhi, said the leader. “He has never been very hopeful of a Congress revival or that of UPA under Rahul Gandhi. He has been advocating Priyanka Gandhi’s formal entry into active politics and her nomination as prime ministerial candidate for quite some time,” he added.
Attacking the Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre for what he called an “undeclared emergency” in the country, the RJD chief said: “Be it Mayawati, Akhilesh, Robert Vadra, Priyanka, Kejriwal, Mamata, an attempt is being made to break whoever opposes them (NDA).”
Party sources said relations between Yadav and Rahul Gandhi have been uncordial ever since September 2013 when the Congress vice-president tore up a copy of the UPA government’s proposed ordinance that sought to punish politicans convicted of crimes. Yadav had been convicted in a fodder scam case a few days before that incident.
During Bihar’s Assembly poll campaigns in 2015, despite the JD(U)-Congress alliance having been sealed, Rahul Gandhi was seen maintaining a distance from Yadav during public rallies.
Earlier this week, Rahul Gandhi extended an olive branch to Janata Dal (U) supremo Nitish Kumar by asking the Bihar Congress chief Ashok Chaudhary to take action against the party leaders attacking Kumar publicly.
The move, sources said, is aimed at getting JD(U)’s support for the vice-presidential polls scheduled to be held in August.
An enhanced partnership between Rahul Gandhi and Nitish Kumar may lead to a dilution of Yadav’s influence in the Opposition block. This is what is worrying the RJD supremo, say political observers.