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Lalu Prasad’s heir apparent is also his Achilles heel

LiveMint logoLiveMint 31-07-2017 Nikita Doval

New Delhi: In the end he turned out to be his father’s Achilles’ heel. Tejashwi Yadav started his political career as the youngest deputy chief minister of Bihar in 2015 but is now on the other side of the fence; as leader of opposition.

When Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar pulled the plug on the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) by resigning last week, he wasted no time in getting back in bed with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the same party with whom he had broken off a 17-year alliance on the grounds of upholding secularism.

Although the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is the single largest party in the Bihar assembly, it is Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) and the BJP that form the new government. And it was left to Lalu Prasad’s younger son and heir apparent to hold the fort. The floor test in the Bihar assembly saw Yadav tear into Kumar and the BJP to great applause. He accused Kumar of holding the state ransom to his political ambitions, saying four governments have been formed in four years to ensure that Kumar stays on as CM.

“Pre-planned drama” and “murder of democracy” were just some of the phrases he used to describe Nitish’s resignation and volte-face on the BJP.

Kumar’s decision to pull out from the RJD-JDU-Congress alliance was based on corruption charges against Tejashwi Yadav for allegedly accepting bribes during his father’s tenure as railway minister from 2005 to 2009. Kumar wanted Yadav to quit but Lalu Prasad, as RJD chief, didn’t budge.

Interestingly, the corruption charges date back to a time when Yadav was only 14 years old—and far from the hustle and bustle of politics, an average student in the capital’s Delhi Public School as well as an aspiring cricketer. Yadav was a member of the Delhi Daredevils IPL team from 2008 to 2012 though he never made it to the playing 11. He also playing for Delhi in the under-15 national championship. According to a 2015 report in The Indian Express, Yadav used to train at the National Stadium in his early teens and was described as an introvert who wouldn’t flash his political background. His schooling seems to have ended after Class IX if his election affidavit is to be believed.

But none of that has really been a hurdle for the 27-year-old son of Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi—he went on to become an MLA in 2015 from Raghopur in Vaishali district in Bihar. Tejashwi is the younger of Prasad’s two sons; the older son, Tej Pratap Yadav, too is a politician and health minister in the Bihar government. However, it is Tejashwi who is considered to be the heir apparent to his father’s political legacy.

“Tejashwi wants to be seen as a leader who is in touch with changing times and aspirations. He is politically savvy and is genuinely interested in learning. He seems to be modelling himself along the lines of Akhilesh Yadav in order to present himself as a young face of the party,” said a Bihar government official, who has observed him closely, on conditions of anonymity.

“Tejashwi has a clean image. Right now he benefits from the support base that his father has built—the favour automatically gets transferred to him and as such his political future is secure. His grooming began when the courts forbade his father from contesting elections. His appointment as the deputy CM was meant to send the message that he is being trained in the Nitish style of clean governance and development,” said Professor D.M. Diwakar, a Patna-based political analyst.

Yadav is very active on social media and has even got his father to join Twitter. He uses social media to connect directly with voters. In fact on his social networking account, a pinned tweet is a link to an article by The Telegraph that applauds Tejashwi’s coming of age. Other tweets are caustic barbs aimed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar.

From midnight protest marches against Kumar to ensuring that the RJD flock stays together after last week’s events, the younger Yadav has his work cut out for him. His oratory has already marked him out to be a chip of the old block. Now it remains to be seen whether Lalu Prasad’s son has also inherited his political acumen.

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