RJD rules out alternative to Tejashwi Yadav as leadership tussle rocks grand alliance in Bihar

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As the election draws nearer in Bihar, opposition leaders in the state appear to be heading towards a leadership crisis. While the RJD has already declared that Tejashwi Yadav will be the chief ministerial candidate, several opposition leaders have expressed their reservations.

Alliance partners such as the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party led by Upendra Kushwaha, Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) led by Mukesh Sahani and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) led by former Jitan Ram Manjhi are in favour of projecting former JD(U) president Sharad Yadav as the opposition’s chief ministerial face.

Kushwaha pitched for a change in the leadership after a meeting with Manjhi and Sahani recently. The three politicians also met Sharad Yadav who was expelled from the JD(U) after Nitish Kumar’s decision to return to the NDA fold in 2017.

"Sharad Yadav is a highly respected leader. The grand alliance is plagued by a leadership crisis in the absence of Lalu Prasad. It would be beneficial if Sharad-ji is projected as the coalition's face," Kushwaha said.

"Sharad-ji will be an ideal choice," VIP leader Sahni said.

The Congress party, on multiple occasions, has also made it clear that the leadership issue in the grand alliance is still open, hinting at a lack of confidence in Tejashwi’s role as the face of the alliance going into polls. The opposition leaders believe that Tejashwi will not pose a threat to the ruling JD(U)-BJP-LJP alliance led by Nitish Kumar.

"The question of leadership will be decided jointly by all constituents at an appropriate time. Until then, people are free to express their opinion," Congress spokesperson Rajesh Rathore told The Indian Express.

While the RJD, on its part, has not hinted any change in its position on Tejashwi, currently the Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Legislative Assembly, questions have been raised over the absence of Lalu’s heir apparent at times when the party needed him. Soon after the Lok Sabha election results were declared, Tejashwi went missing from action and only returned to active politics after a 40-day hiatus. He was also nowhere to be found when the state capital of Patna was witnessing its worst deluge in years. These instances, among others, appear to have dented the confidence of the alliance in his leadership.

The former deputy CM is now all set to embark on a state-wide ‘Berozgari Hatao’ yatra from February 23. The bus which in which he will be traveling has already embroiled into a major controversy. The ruling alliance leaders have been targetting Tejashwi for using a luxury bus registered in the name of a person holding a BPL card.

Party’s vice-president and Lalu’s confidant Raghuvansh Prasad said that Sharad Yadav is a national leader and he shouldn’t be confined to the state. He, however, maintained that Tejashwi is the obvious opposition’s choice for the CM’s post.

Bihar will go to polls in October-November this year. This will be the first Assembly election when Lalu will be missing from action as he is behind the bars in connection with the fodder scam.

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