Over the last year and a half, Tejashwi Yadav has emerged as the most important organisation man in the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). The refrain among party workers and large sections of supporters was that Lalu Prasad’s son was maturing to be a competent leader in his own right and a worthy successor to the charismatic founder president of the RJD. Faced with the biggest crisis of his developing political career, as the person in the centre of the storm of the breakup of the RJD’s alliance with the Janata Dal (United), Tejashwi has been the picture of composure. He spoke to Frontline on the telephone a day after the collapse of the alliance and Nitish Kumar’s realignment with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Excerpts:
Nitish Kumar says it is your inability to explain your position on the corruption charges levelled against you that led him to break the Grand Alliance and go with the BJP.
At the outset, let me state that I did not expect this type of downright falsehood from somebody whom I have described several times in the past as a political mentor and a dear uncle. The fact is I explained the cooked-up nature of the charges against me and, at that point of time, he seemed to understand this position. So many of his associates in his party as well as in his rediscovered ally, the BJP, are facing several types of criminal cases. In fact, Nitish Kumar ji himself is facing an accusation in a murder case. The Chief Minister of our neighbouring State, Yogi Adityanath, with whom Nitish Kumar ji would be working closely now as a political ally, has an array of criminal charges against him with the offences marked by grievous sections such as IPC 302, 307, 153 A, 295 and 506. [These sections deal with heinous crimes such as murder, attempt to murder and promoting enmity between different groups of people on the basis of birth, race, language, etc.]
If it was the raising of one set of charges against me that made him hurry out from our alliance, on what moral logic did he come into the alliance in the first place? When he aligned with us 20 months ago, my father and RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav ji was already convicted on similar charges and was pursuing legal appeals. So, where was Nitish Kumar ji ’s moral compunction then? At that time, he was so animatedly talking about and making plans to fight the communal BJP. So, it is evident that the charges against me were not his actual concern. He was desperate to get back to his communal partners and to achieve that he employed me as a pawn. Or, to put it more plainly, stabbed me in the back when he should have been guiding younger leaders for the betterment of Bihar.
There was a sense in the Nitish Kumar camp that your popularity ratings both as a politician and as an administrator were improving. Do you think that this could have been one of the reasons for this sudden disaffection with you?
I had heard such views from other people too. Who am I to comment on such perceptions. It is the job of the media and political observers to evaluate and state whether such perceptions have merit.
When Nitish Kumar aligned with the RJD and the Congress 20 months ago, he had projected this as the beginning of a national political model, which would eventually turn into a movement against the BJP and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had even said that this was the vision for the future of a secular India. But now you are saying that Nitish Kumar had planned his return to the BJP fold long ago. There seems to be some incongruity in your perception. Why would a person who would have been virtually one of the topmost leaders of the national opposition to the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance leave it all of a sudden if he did not have a good reason?
That’s where the role of the dirty tricks department of the BJP becomes important. As all of you know, their team for this section is formidable. The track record of Amit Shah ji , the president of the BJP, is by itself phenomenal in this regard. He has charted a dark and shady path from Gujarat to Muzaffarnagar to West Bengal over the past several decades. My own thinking is that Amit Shah ji would have unravelled some special ploy to bind Nitish Kumar ji . We have a broad inkling of what it is, but this needs more exploration. We shall let the world know once we are able to complete our probe.
But beyond all this, Nitish Kumar ji ’s move is a betrayal of the mandate of the 2015 Assembly election. The mandate given by the people of Bihar in 2015 was against the BJP and its communal drive and anti-people economic policies. It is nothing short of a murder of democracy committed by a so-called champion of moral and democratic values. I believe that Nitish Kumar ji had the realisation at that point of time that if he allied with the BJP then, he would not have won, because the people were thoroughly disgusted with the Modi government and the BJP as a whole. So, he came with us, got our votes, and once safely ensconced, has gone back into the communal fold, utterly violating the will of the people.
Do you think there will be a revolt within the JD (U) on this betrayal of the mandate?
There are already signs of disgruntlement at this decision, which serves the interest of only one man in that party. We are waiting and watching as to how things unfold in the coming days.
Evidently, the entire Lalu Prasad family is facing a tough time with the spate of corruption allegations and investigations by various agencies. How do you propose to counter this?
Lalu ji and all of us in the family have always held our trust in our legal system and the judiciary. At one level, we are pursuing that path. At the political level, our people have full trust and faith in our leadership. It is something that was underscored in the last elections too, when we won more seats though we contested as many seats as the JD (U). Yes, it could be a long and multifaceted struggle, but we will continue to fight relentlessly.