Patna: Bihar’s main opposition party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is passing through a difficult time after its rout in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the absence of party chief Lalu Prasad. With Prasad still behind bars, his wife and former chief minister, Rabri Devi, was forced to chair an important meeting of party’s MLAs and senior leaders here on Friday as Bihar’s opposition leader, Tejashwi Yadav, failed to turn up.
Tejashwi, who has been declared the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the next Assembly polls due in 2020, continues to disappoint party leaders as well as workers, if sources are to be believed. In the past two and half months, Tejashwi has attended only about six party meetings, giving rise to speculation about is reclusive attitude towards leading the party.
The former deputy chief minister is also not showing interest in leading the Opposition Grand Alliance comprising of RJD, Congress, Hindustan Awam Morcha, Rashtriya Loktantrik Samta Party and Vikassheel Insaan Party, as he prefers to stay in New Delhi, away from the state after worst ever defeat that the party face in the Lok Sabha polls this year.
So far, most of RJD leaders have maintained a silence over why Tejashwi failed to attend a meeting of the party to review its membership drive launched last month. One or two senior party leaders, like Shivanand Tiwari, expressed his helplessness saying who cares to listen his advice. Last month Tiwary, considered close to Lalu prasad, had said: "If Tejashwi claims that he is the son of lion, why he is sitting in the den?" (Agar aap kahte hai ke sher ke beta hai to maan mein kyon baithe hai).
Tiwari also advised Tejashwi that he should come out in public and lead from the front ."You have to face police batons, sometimes you may be beaten by police, but will have to go to jail for fighting for people".
He further warned Tejashwi that sitting in the ‘den’ would not help him win the battle. "There is no way to retreat, come out from the den".
The senior RJD leader said all this after Tejashwi skipped the function of 26th foundation of RJD here, which was attended by Rabri Devi and Tejashwi's elder brother, Tej Pratap Yadav.
In a bid to strengthen the party, RJD has decided to reach a target of 50 lakh members by adding 15 lakh new members in the ongoing membership drive that will end on October 2.
A reluctant Tejashwi ,who is widely seen as a leader who can revive RJD in the absence of Lalu Prasad, who is undergoing treatment at a government-run hospital in Ranchi in Jharkhand after being convicted in the fodder scam case, has given rise to speculation of a likely formation of a third front or morcha, comprising smaller parties for the next Assembly polls in the state.
Earlier, leaders of Congress, an ally of the RJD-led Grand Alliance, and another ally HAM chief and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, said Tejashwi was the leader of RJD, not of the Grand Alliance. Besides, Manjhi and a Congress MLA publicly questioned ability of Tejashwi to lead, saying he “lacked experience.”
An RJD leader told NewsClick that Tejashwi was the only hope of the party but lamented that he was not playing an active role since the Lok Sabha rout. More than Tejashwi, it was Rabri Devi who was leading the party inside the Assembly during the last month’s monsoon session as well as within the party and outside. ”It appears Tejashwi was shocked and upset after the defeat in Lok Sabha polls despite hia hard labour. He is yet to overcome it”, he said.
The RJD failed to win even one seat in the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar, the first time since the party was formed 26 years ago.
Affter that Tejashwi was missing for a month from public life. He arrived in Patna in last June but failed to attend the first day of the monsoon session. Later, he attended the session for only one or two days. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies – Janata Dal-United and Lok Janshakti Party -- had taunted Tejashwi for this.
However, Bhola Yadav, who is close to the Lalu-Rabri family, downplayed Tejashwi’s absence from active politics, saying Tejashwi, the younger son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, had expressed his serious concern over the deaths of 154 children due to Acute Encephelitis Syndrome in Bihar, mostly in Muzaffarpur district in June. He had also expressed similar concern over the floods, referring to some tweets by the RJD leader.
Yadav said RJD had made it clear that party leader Tejashwi would continue as Opposition leader in the Bihar Assembly.
In private, however, RJD leaders admit that Tejashwi's attitude was negative, which worried them because ruling National Democratic Alliance, led by BJP, was aggressive and had already begun work for the next Assembly polls.