PATNA: The morning after Bihar’s embattled main Opposition party RJD delivered a crushing blow to the ruling JD(U) and BJP in the state’s bellwether bypolls, a word in a tweet by RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav generated a buzz in the state’s political circles.
Used to describe Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s brand of politics, this neologism — “poly-tics” — was loaded with meaning that might have left the JD(U) stalwart squirming. It was Tejashwi heaping scorn at Kumar for switching allies due to political expediency.
RJD’s victory in the Muslim-dominated Araria Lok Sabha constituency and the Jehanabad Assembly seat despite the many odds stacked against the party marked a coming-of-age milestone for Tejashwi.
The results were a major setback for the ruling coalition partners. Not only did the result expose the failings of the “double engine” of JD(U)-BJP combine, they also signalled the arrival in Bihar of what is being dubbed as the “Tejashwi phenomenon”.
With his charismatic father Lalu Prasad locked away in a Ranchi jail for the past three months, it was the 28-year-old first-time MLA who shouldered the task of keeping RJD together and inspired. The young Yadav scion was maligned and ridiculed by his more experienced rivals as a “” (child) in politics and a “matric fail” man. But the bypolls gave him a chance to prove his mettle.
Tejashwi made two smart moves in the run-up to the bypolls that paid RJD richly. With guidance from Lalu, he managed to bring former CM and Dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi-led HAM, then an NDA constituent, into the RJD-led Opposition alliance. He also lured JD(U) MLA Sarfaraz Alam into RJD fold and fielded him from Araria. Alam’s late father, Mohammad Taslimuddin, had won the Araria seat in 2014 despite a BJP wave.
In over a dozen hugely attended rallies in Araria and Jehanabad, Tejashwi attacked Nitish and BJP for having formed an “immoral alliance” after “betraying the mandate” of 2015 Assembly polls. He was also able to convince the voters about the ruling parties’ “conspiracy against and injustice with your leader Lalu Prasad Yadav”. RJD’s huge victory margins in both seats suggest voters were swayed by Tejashwi’s contentions.
“Uncle, the child is no longer a child. You have imprisoned not Lalu but an ideology. This ideology and the new developments will crush your arrogance,” said a beaming Tejashwi in remarks directed at Nitish after RJD’s win, which came hours after Sonia Gandhi’s dinner party in New Delhi where the RJD heir apparent was one of the attendees.
With this victory, Tejashwi looks ready to strike out on his own in Bihar’s choppy politics. More confident than before, he seems eager to build on his father’s political legacy to justify the faith his embattled family and party have placed in him.