Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad's conviction in the multi-crore fodder scam case on Monday has, in one stroke, catapulted a much loved but largely uninitiated son to an early adulthood in politics. A former cricketer, 24-year-old Tejaswi Yadav is Lalu's younger son and preferred political heir.
Unfortunately for Tejaswi, Lalu was convicted before he could formally hand over his political mantle to him. As RJD stares at an uncertain future without its charismatic leader, Tejaswi faces an uphill task of consolidating his position in a party in turmoil.
The challenges he faces in RJD are clear from senior party leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh's response when asked if he would accept Tejaswi as his leader. "Tejaswi is a young leader. There are several other young leaders in the party," he said
RJD sources said other senior leaders like Buxar MP Jagdanand Singh and former deputy speaker Shakuni Chaudhary may have similar views on the leadership issue but they have chosen to stay silent till now.
"This is precisely why former chief minister Rabri Devi, Tejshawi's mother, may lead the party in Lalu's absence till such time as the son establishes himself," said a party insider.
In July 1997, when Lalu's arrest seemed imminent, he resigned as the CM and made Rabri Devi, a homemaker till then, the chief minister. It was a measure of his great political reach at that time that the government survived.
When Nitish Kumar came to power in November 2005, Rabri became leader of the opposition. However, after the RJD could manage a meagre 22 seats in a house of 243 in the 2010 assembly polls, she was back to being a homebody.
"Rabriji will have to hold fort till Tejaswi consolidates his position in the party, just as Sonia Gandhi held the Congress reins till Rahul came of age," said a leader close to Lalu.
Although Lalu wanted Tejaswi to be his political heir, his elder son Tej Pratap has also developed interest in politics and has emerged as a claimant to his father's political mantle.
"This is another challenge facing Tejaswi. As of now, Tejashwi and Tej Pratap are separate centres of power in the party while their eldest sister, Misa Bharati, is said to be keen to contest the next Lok Sabha poll," said a party source.
Both the sons were present at Lalu's well-attended 'parivartan rally' in Patna on May 15. Both of them kept a low profile and came on stage only after Lalu asked them to.