Sharad Yadav, 72, has been in national politics for decades. (File)
The Opposition in Bihar, led by Lalu Prasad’s RJD, may be looking at a leadership tussle as the stage is laid for the Assembly elections, due in October-November this year.
While non-Congress alliance partners such as Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) are trying to project multiple-time Parliamentarian Sharad Yadav as the Opposition’s chief ministerial face, seen more as a ploy to remove Lalu’s son and Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav from the leadership role, the RJD seems to be in no mood to oblige.
Lalu, who is in jail in Ranchi in a fodder scam case, is learnt to have been informed of reservations of some of the allies on Tejashwi’s leadership but was not receptive to any suggestion for change. In what is being seen as a firm rejection of that proposal, Tejashwi is poised to undertake a state-wide “Berozgari hatao (remove unemployment) yatra” from February 23.
The Congress indicated that the leadership issue is still open.
Sharad Yadav, 72, has been in national politics for decades. Elected to Lok Sabha seven times and Rajya Sabha thrice, he is unlikely to be in the running for the CM’s position. His name is seen as having been set afloat to set the stage for a change, and take the leadership mantle from the hands of Tejashwi, or any other member of Lalu Prasad’s family so long as the former Bihar CM remains in jail.
The expression of a lack of confidence in Tejashwi’s leadership by RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha and VIP president Mukesh Sahni on February13 stems from their conviction that Tejashwi would not be able to pose a serious challenge to the BJP-JD(U)-LJP combine under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Kushwaha pitched in for a change of leadership after a meeting with Sahni and HAM(S) leader and former CM Jitan Ram Majhi. The three leaders also met Sharad Yadav. Calling Sharad a “highly respected leader”, Kushwaha said, “The Grand Alliance is plagued by leadership crisis in the absence of Lalu Prasad. It would be beneficial if Sharad-ji is projected as the coalition’s face.”
“Sharad-ji will be an ideal choice,” Sahni said in endorsement.
Sharad himself said, “I am always happy to offer my services and carry out whatever responsibilities I am assigned.”
But RJD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha promptly stated that there is “no alternative to Tejashwi”, while RJD vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh indicated that Tejashwi is an obvious choice for CM candidate. Singh said: “Sharad Yadav is a national leader. He cannot be confined to a state-specific role.”
Congress spokesperson Rajesh Rathore said: “The question of leadership will be decided jointly by all constituents at an appropriate time. Until then, people are free to express their opinion.”
Tejashwi had made his debut in electoral politics in 2015 on a promising note, first as deputy CM to Nitish in the Grand Alliance government, and later as the Leader of Opposition after Nitish’s return to NDA. But he gradually lost traction for a variety of reasons. The result was the RJD drew a blank in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, a first since Lalu founded the party in 1997.