In 2015, a young 26-year-old Tejashwi Yadav becoming the deputy chief minister of Bihar earned him taunts like “9th pass”. The youngest to hold the second top post in the state enjoyed his position and power, lurking under the formidable shadow of his father Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Fast forward to 2020, with Lalu languishing behind the bars, Tejashwi is now eyeing the top post — to overthrow Nitish Kumar for the “betrayal” that led to a windfall for his party in 2017. But most importantly, 2020 will be a significant opportunity for Tejashwi to prove his political mettle, to make an individual brand out of his name, and separate himself from the one that Lalu means for Bihar.
Reports, however, allege that it is Lalu who is calling the shots from jail. And the ailing RJD patriarch has already shown what he can do from outside the scene when he, in perhaps one of the most unexpected moves in politics, made his wife Rabri Devi the chief minister in 1997.
The 2020 Bihar assembly elections is being held in three phases with the first already over (on October 28) and the rest due on November 3 and 7. The votes will be counted on November 10. This time, it’s a three-pronged battle with Nitish-led Janata Dal (United) leading the NDA alliance with the BJP, RJD and Congress teaming up with Left parties and Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party going it all alone.
Born on November 9, 1989, Tejashwi made his entry into electoral politics in 2015, yearning for a bigger pitch for his game. Once a part of Delhi Daredevils squad in Indian Premier League, Tejashwi’s big game now meant the second top post in the state. Five year on, his eyes are now fixed on Nitish Kumar’s crown.
Emboldened by massive crowds in his rallies, Tejashwi, the anti-NDA grouping’s chief ministerial candidate, is waiting to take down the powerful Modi-Nitish duo, veterans of electoral politics known for their seasoned campaigning experiences and long tenures in top posts.
Tejashwi is seeking re-election from the Raghopur constituency in Vaishali district, which he had won in his maiden poll plunge in 2015. The election in this segment will be held in the second phase (November 3). He is pitted against the NDA’s Satish Kumar, who was once termed “giant killer” for defeating Rabri Devi in the same seat in 2010.
As RJD pins its hopes on the younger Yadav scion, (the other being his brother Tej Pratap), Tejashwi has been upfront with his tactics in the big battle. Wisely, he is playing the ‘young leader’ card visibly above the Lalu card that has fuelled him so far. Raised by two former chief ministers, his posters now lack their photos, in what can be translated as a “one-man show” being put up by Tejashwi.
The NDA, however, interpreted this as an “image makeover” move of the RJD, in a time-tested strategy for the saffron camp that has always helped in Bihar.
They’ve been vocal about Lalu’s “Gabbar” image in their campaign speeches, reminding Biharis about the “jungle raaj” (reign of terror) during his rule. Incidentally, Lalu had once himself said in one of his election speeches that the NDA leaders are trying to scare the voters as if he is Gabbar Singh. Gabbar Singh refers to the Sholay villain played by late Amjad Khan.
In a recent campaign speech, BJP MP Anurag Thakur asked how will the people of Bihar trust Tejashwi when he got even the photographs of his father (Lalu) removed from the posters and hoardings of the party.
Incidentally, Lalu, the larger-than-life RJD leader who is both an asset and liability for the party, and the cases against him are the major headache for Tejashwi that has driven him to create a separate identity for himself.
The other accusation levelled by BJP against Tejashwi is that his attitude towards smaller parties like former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM, former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP and Mukesh Sahni’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). All these parties have exited the Bihar Mahagathbandhan.
Despite numerous challenges, Tejashwi is leaving no efforts to prove his worth for both the RJD throne and the CM’s crown. Tejashwi 2020 is more responsible than Tejashwi 2015. He has witnessed a setback in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and is expected to take care of the elections dynamics and ready for the post-poll churn which is much expected.
He has been fierce in his recent speeches, holding Nitish Kumar accountable. He has called the chief minister old and said that he’ll not be able to handle Bihar anymore. Tejashwi has made it clear that the assembly elections this time will be fought over unemployment. The “double-engine” (BJP-JDU) Bihar government in Bihar under Kumar, which is expected to invite wrath for the migrant crisis during the lockdown, is facing constant attacks at well-packed rallies of Tejashwi.
He has attacked Nitish Kumar for not stepping out of his house for over three months due to the coronavirus, but doing so for campaigning to seek votes. He has asked PM Modi why the construction for AIIMS at Darbhanga, announced in 2015, started just before the 2020 elections. He has raised questions over the promises of universities and hospitals. With promises of jobs and raise in widow pension, he has made unemployment a major plank for the 2020 elections.
With the elections ongoing, the question that remains is whether RJD will bag the most number of votes and Tejashwi become the chief minister of Bihar. Will Tejashwi be Bihar’s favourite? Turning 31 on November 9, a day later the Yadav scion will get his report card — will Bihar trust the Yadavs again?