Till a few weeks ago, Tejashwi Yadav, who is leading the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Bihar's main opposition party, while his father, Lalu Yadav, is in jail, was dismissed as one more dynast. Tejashwi, 31, was seen as entitled and privileged because he was a minister in the Bihar government till 2018. He was named the chief of the family party after Lalu Yadav was arrested in March 2018. But with his current campaign, Tejashwi Yadav seems to have come of age. He is headlining as many as 12 rallies a day, drawing the largest crowds in what was supposed to be a career-ending Bihar election for him. Crowds so large that both Nitish Kumar's party and the BJP have been forced to comment on their scale which they attribute to mere curiosity among voters. Opinion polls largely show an easy win for the Nitish-BJP combo, but at least one also shows Tejashwi as a close second choice to Nitish for Chief Minister. Like his father, Lalu, Tejashwi seems to have got under Nitish's skin.
With his father and former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad away from the Bihar Assembly elections for the first time in over 40 years, his son and RJD leader Tejashwi has stepped in effortlessly in the former’s shoes to spearhead his party’s campaign.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader on Friday shared the stage at a public rally with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Hisua in Nawada district, the latter’s first rally for the Grand Alliance in the poll-bound state.
Tejashwi has attracted attention with the kind of crowds he is pulling to his election rallies in Bihar, creating a niche while addressing about a dozen-odd rallies daily in Bihar. Needless to say, the stakes are high for the Grand Alliance, and still higher for the RJD to dominate the Bihar politics once again.
Tejashwi, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing Assembly, is the RJD face on party posters and campaigns. He is attacking Chief Minister Nitish Kumar — once an ally of his jailed father — at his public rallies.
“Though the Janata Dal-United is in power for more than 13 years, the balance is now tilting towards the RJD-led alliance,” remarked a party leader.
Even though RJD has arrayed 30 star campaigners, only Tejashwi is seen campaigning on the ground ahead of the three-phase elections. Party campaign managers say that Tejashwi would end up addressing more than 200 rallies as he is in high demand.
RJD leader Manoj Jha said: “The issues raised by Tejashwi at his public rallies are getting high traction among the people of Bihar and pushed the NDA on the back foot.”
Though party leaders “miss” the presence of Lalu Prasad, known for his oratorial skills, but maintain that even Tejashwi has given nightmares to NDA leaders that they did not expect from a young leader.
Tejashwi brings up the issue of jobs during his speeches since he knows the craze for government jobs in the state. His party has promised 10 lakh jobs to the Bihar youth in case it returns to power.
Analysts feel after the migrant crisis during coronavirus lockdown and the promise of 10 lakh jobs have managed to draw huge crowds to the RJD election rallies.
A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party promised 19 lakh jobs and free Covid vaccine in its manifesto for Bihar polls, the Congress attacked the BJP for being critical of the 10 lakh-job promise made by the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said in a tweet: “After mocking the RJD for promising to create 10 lakh jobs, the NDA has promised to create 19 lakh jobs in Bihar if elected.
“I did not know that 19 was a smaller number than 10. I think I should go back to primary school,” he mocked the BJP.
Earlier on Thursday, Rahul Gandhi too hit out at the BJP on the free vaccine promise. He said this was an election gimmick and added to the false promises made by the BJP.
“GOI just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when will you get it, along with a hoard of false promises,” Rahul said in his tweet.
The Congress alleged that Bihar has been pushed into backwardness after more than 13 years of rule by the NDA and what they were promising was only a “Jumla”.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday while releasing the BJP manifesto: “As soon as a Covid-19 vaccine is available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination. This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto,” she said.
The party also promised to create as many as 19 lakh jobs for the youth of Bihar.
The saffron party has evolved a five-point formula for the development of the state, which includes a healthy society, self-dependent Bihar, educated Bihar, strong industry and strong agriculture with financially sound farmers and healthy rural-urban development.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in gaya said that law and order was very poor in Bihar from the 1990s till 2005 and the state’s present-day problems stemmed from those days, appealing to the voters to shun ‘lantern’ since electricity had reached every poor household in the state.
Addressing a public rally in Gaya, his second in the poll-bound state, Modi brought up the issues of bad condition of roads, alleged sheer lawlessness and people afraid of buying new cars for ‘fear of a particular party getting wind’ of it and grabbing the vehicles.
“There was a time in Bihar when electricity was supplied to the homes of the rich. The need for lanterns (RJD poll symbol) in today’s Bihar is over. Today, every poor household in Bihar has an electricity connection; there is light.”
“Back then, in Bihar, people did not buy cars so that the workers of a political party did not get to know of their earnings. It was a time when going from one city to another, people were not sure whether they would reach their destination or be kidnapped midway,” the Prime Minister said at the Gandhi Maidan here.
He claimed that in the 90s, Bihar was pushed into a quagmire of chaos and disorder. Even today, the roots of many problems of present-day Bihar lie in the chaos of the misrule in the 90s, he alleged.
Raising the issue of Naxalism that once plagued this belt in Bihar, Modi said that much effort was put in and strict action taken in the last few years to curb such activities in the country. Naxal presence has now been restricted to few areas, he said.
The Centre made efforts to bring Maoist-hit areas out of violence and introduced development. But he also warned that “preparation is afoot to take Bihar back to that age of darkness”.
Flaying the Mahagathbandhan, he alleged that those who give Naxals a “freehand” in the past are now standing against the National Democratic Alliance.
“When action is taken against those advocating to break or divide the country, these people (opposition) stand with them. The model of these people has been to make Bihar sick and helpless,” Modi alleged and appealed for vote for the NDA in the Assembly polls to “fulfil the hopes and expectations” with which they put it in power at the Centre. (IANS)