Will the two young leaders of Bihar, Tejaswi Yadav of the Rashtirya Janata Dal and Chirag Paswan of the Lok Jan Shakthi Party, be able to fill the big shoes of their fathers Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan respectively? KALYANI SHANKAR examines what lies ahead for the two young leaders in Bihar.
alu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan had been players in Bihar politics for decades and held their own despite their ups and downs. They sensed a political opening in the late eighties to challenge the dominant Congress and succeeded to a certain extent.
While Lalu is in a Ranchi jail, serving sentence on the fodder scam, Paswan has passed away last week.While Lalu is in a Ranchi jail, serving sentence on the fodder scam, Paswan has passed away last week.
The two young leaders will be playing a much more pronounced role now. They are leading two important caste groups. Tejaswi is leading the Yadavs and Chirag leading the Dalits. Both these groups are estimated to be about 24 to 30 percent of the electorate. To their advantage, their fathers have declared both of them as their political heirs.
39-year-old Tejaswi is the leader of the opposition alliance called Mahagadbandhan (Grand Alliance). Congress, the CPI, CPI –M, and some smaller parties are part of the coalition. This will be facing the formidable ruling JD (U) –BJP alliance.
Tejaswi is ambitious, and articulate and has learned some political tricks from his father. He grabbed the opportunity and quickly moved to neutralise his opponents.
But, Tejaswi faces numerous challenges.
Though Tejashwi has inherited Lalu’s name, his identity, and his political legacy, we have to see whether he also inherits his vote bank.
The first is to keep the flock together. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a close confidant of Lalu Yadav, resigned as the party’s vice president and left the party last month. As he was ailing, he passed away recently. Resenting voices of senior leaders like Shivanand Tiwari and some MLAs are leaving RJD and joining Nitish Kumar’s JDU.
Though Tejashwi has inherited Lalu’s name, his identity, and his political legacy, we have to see whether he also inherits his vote bank. Lalu had carefully built up the Yadav – Muslim (MY) vote bank. With his one action of halting BJP leader L.K.Advani’s famous Rath Yatra in 1990, he has claimed secular credentials. In all probability, this vote bank will remain with Tejaswi.
Tejaswi has a long way to go as he lacks political shrewdness.
Then there is the youth vote. There are four crore young voters who are being targeted. Tejaswi has built up his social media platforms, posters, slogans, and election songs keeping hem in mind.
Though he has studied only up to 9th standard, he is proficient in English.
Tejaswi has a long way to go as he lacks political shrewdness. Secondly, he has nothing much to show about his achievements as he was the Deputy Chief Minister only for 20 months.
Thirdly, Lalu overlooked the claims of his elder son Tejapratap Yadav and daughter Misa Bharti and declared Tejaswi as his political heir, which has created jealousy, and trouble in the family. Tejaswi has to sort this out.
Fourthly, Tejaswi got this position on a silver platter. He became the deputy chief minister at the age of 26 and is now waiting to become the chief minister.
When the Mahagathbandhan ended in 2017, he became the leader of the opposition and now the leader of the Grand Alliance. He now has an opportunity to show his leadership skills.
Chirag’s story is different. He wanted to become a film actor but on second thoughts he joined his father in politics and soon rose to become the party chief. He has been involved in many crucial decisions of the party including the recent decision to go solo in Bihar Assembly polls leaving the Nitish-led NDA in Bihar.
Chirag is yet to emerge as a new Dalit icon like his father
Ram Vilas Paswan was known as a weathercock and he had worked with eight Prime Ministers, serving in their cabinets for decades. His death last week would help Chirag Paswan get a lot of sympathy in his party but we will have to see how he translates the sympathy factor into votes.
Chirag is yet to emerge as a new Dalit icon like his father. He will also face a new challenge to galvanise the workers and consolidate his position. He should be able to make his voters believe that he is the right person to fill up the space left by his father.
In Bihar, Dalits comprise over 17 percent of the population and they are one of the game-changers.
While Ram Vilas Paswan could keep his Dalit constituency intact by going solo, Chirag Paswan will be allowing the LJPs rank and file to contest the election on a much bigger scale and expand its organisational footprint.
Rumours say that he also sealed a kind of deal with the BJP for a post-election scenario that might emerge.
The two leaders will be facing a formidable combination of JD (U) and the BJP who have established leadership, experience, money power, muscle power, and electoral machinery.
If they are not able to benefit from their father’s legacy who will benefit? Could it be the JD (U) or the BJP or the Congress? Probably both might keep their flock together if they play their cards well. Or else their voters might move away. (IPA Service)
(Kalyani Shankar is a senior Delhi-based journalist and political commentator. She is the former Political Editor of the Hindustan Times and former Washington correspondent of the Hindustan Times. Views are personal.)