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Faced with uphill task, Lalu comes out with subdued war cry

Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: September 26, 2020 00:00 IST
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Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad, whose party faces an insurmountable handicap because of its ailing founding chief being behind bars, on Friday came out with a subdued war cry for the assembly polls in Bihar.

 

IMAGE: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav rides a tractor along with party supporters during Bharat Bandh, a protest against the farm bills passed in Parliament recently, in Patna, on Friday. Photograph: PTI Photo

A five-line tweet which displayed his fondness for verse but lacked his trademark flamboyance, was all that came from the septuagenarian after the Election Commission announced the poll schedule.

'Utho Bihari, karo taiyari/ Janta ka shasan abki bari/Bihar mein badlaav hoga/ Afsar raj khatm hoga/ Ab Janta ka raaj hoga,' ran the tweet.

Asking the people of Bihar to bring their own government to power, the post made a veiled reference to the alleged high handedness of bureaucracy under the Janata Dal(United)-Bharatiya Janata Party rule but fell shy of a frontal attack on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, his arch rival, or the near hegemonic saffron party which considers him a bete noire.

Considered invincible when the undivided Bihar was ruled by Prasad, and later his wife Rabri Devi, the RJD has witnessed its fortunes dwindle since 2005 when it was ousted from power.

The 2015 assembly polls brought a new lease of life to the party as Prasad and Kumar took all by surprise as they buried the hatchet and formed the Grand Alliance taking the Congress -- a spent force in the state -- on board.

Prasad, who had been disqualified two years ago following his first conviction in a fodder scam case, canvassed with fire and the new coalition won hands down, halting the BJP juggernaut set in motion with Narendra Modi's ascent.

The elections saw Kumar returning as the CM for the first time while both sons of Prasad occupied cabinet berths with a swagger that stemmed from the RJD emerging as the single largest party with 80 seats under its belt.

However, the party was left high and dry when the chief minister in July 2017 made an abrupt exit from the Grand Alliance and returned to the National Democratic Alliance, unable to take the heat generated by a money laundering case in which the name of Tejashwi Yadav, his then deputy and Prasad's younger son, had cropped up.

Attempts by the RJD to politically milk Kumar's 'betrayal of mandate' have born no fruit so far.

The party's tally in the 243-strong assembly has nosedived to under 70, thanks to a few defeats in by-polls and a significant number of defections by sitting MLAs in the recent past.

Those turning their backs on the RJD in recent times included Parsa MLA Chandrika Rai whose daughter's nasty marital dispute with Tej Pratap Yadav, the mercurial elder son of the proverbial 'first couple' of RJD, has become a major embarrassment for the party.

The NDA has also made its intentions clear to make the 'injustice' meted out to newly-married Aishwarya Rai a poll issue.

The younger son Tejashwi Yadav has been anointed by the father as heir apparent and approaches the assembly elections as the RJD's chief ministerial candidate.

He, however, is faced with an unenviable situation with many in the party, like late founding member Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, having questioned his leadership skills.

Recently, former chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha president Jitan Ram Manjhi too walked out of the Grand Alliance, which had come to be helmed by the RJD with Congress and three smaller parties in tow.

Manjhi has since been training his guns at Yadav while singing paeans to Kumar against whom he had raised a banner of revolt when asked to step down as CM to make way for the return of his mentor.

Yet another blow has come into the form of open rebellion from Upendra Kushwaha, chief of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, who is said to have made up his mind to quit the Grand Alliance and return to the NDA, notwithstanding the cold vibes he shares with Nitish Kumar.

"Tejashwi Yadav is not yet ripe to take on Nitish Kumar. We do not wish to fight a lost battle. We may consider continuing in the Grand Alliance if a more suitable face is projected," Kushwaha said here on Thursday at a party meeting in which he was authorised to take a decision on the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party's future move.

The 30-year-old Tejashwi Yadav, admired even by critics for his composure, could barely conceal his frustration when reporters posed before him questions, shortly before he hit the streets driving a tractor in solidarity with the 'Bharat Bandh' called by farmers' bodies.

"This is a strange demand. How can other parties expect the RJD to decide its leadership as per their wishes? We never ask them to consult us while deciding their office-bearers. And I wonder why everybody is so curious about seat-sharing in the Grand Alliance. Even the NDA has not been able to announce its own formula," Yadav snapped.

The NDA faces a challenge in the form of rebellion from Chirag Paswan-led LJP, but the party is unlikely to boost the RJD's prospects. Its proclamation of fielding candidates against the JD-U may, at the most, cause some problems for the party headed by the chief minister.

Such a situation could be advantage BJP, which has been desperate to gain an upper hand in the state but wary of rubbing Kumar the wrong way for fear of his again joining hands with Prasad and give rise to a lethal combination.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra© Copyright 2020 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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