Notional speaking, even a relentless mid-summer afternoon Sun could not outshine the aura that surrounded the formal arrival on the political stage of the next generation of the RJD leadership.
If the grandeur of a huge public rally is the benchmark setting for the successful launch of a career in politics, Tejashwi, 24, and Tej Pratap, 26, RJD president Lalu Prasad’s two sons, could not have it any better than this.
At Prasad’s ‘parivartan rally’ in Patna, his biggest political show since an RJD regime headed by his Rabri Devi was ousted from office in 2004-05, the ‘arrival’ of the two Lalu scions was perhaps the biggest breaking news.
Change was undoubtedly the central theme of the rally. Pleased at the crowd turnout, Prasad predicted the countdown of the Nitish Kumar regime’s ouster from office had begun.
Senior party leaders who spoke at the rally acknowledged another kind of change: that the succession line of RJD leadership had been established without much ado.
“If there can by a Rajiv Gandhi to an Indira Gandhi, a Rahul Gandhi to a Sonia Gandhi and a Sachin Pilot to a Rajesh Pilot, why can’t these young men infuse fresh energy in the RJD”, asked former MP Raghunath Jha.
Fully cognizant of the significance of the presence on the stage of the Lalu-Rabri sons, many other leaders took time to touch upon the same theme.
An exception to this ‘rule’ was senior RJD MP and union rural development minister in UPA-1, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who reeled off a lot of statistics to show the Nitish Kumar regime had hardly done well for itself.
The RJD’s third sitting Lok Sabha MP, Jagdanand Singh – Lalu and Raghuvansh are the other two, failed to make it to the ‘parivartan rally’.
Back-benchers on the stage till the arrival of their parents, the two Lalu kids took to its centre in response to urgent summons. “Papa bula rahen hain” (Father is calling you), whispered RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav, urgently. Once in front of the crowd, a composed Tejashwi, acknowledged as Lalu’s anointed successor, persisted in greeting the gathering with folded hands. Elder brother Tej, a relatively late entrant to politics, was more flamboyant. An RJD green cap perched on his head, he furiously waved to the crowd. Neither of the two spoke.
“If my sons don’t carry the lantern (the RJD’s election symbol), what will they do? Carry around a BJP lotus”, Lalu said in defence of his children’s presence at the rally.
Speaking to reporters on the sides of the rally, Tejashwi said the Nitish regime had failed on all fronts. “No investment has come to Bihar in the past seven years, NCRB data shows crime is soaring and the BPL count is growing in the state. What kind of development is this”, he asked.
The younger of Lalu Prasad’s two sons and his political heir apparent, Tejashwi’s first outings in politics were his brief appearances by his father’s side during the 2009 Lok sabha poll and the 2010 Bihar assembly election.
“But now its full time politics for me”, Tejashwi had said before taking of on a state-wide 'yuva jan samartan yatra' on April 20 “to link up with the youth and take my party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)”.
Tej Pratap, who appeared to have little interest in politics earlier, enlisted himself on the RJD succession list after playing an active role in the Patna university students’ union elections, late last year.
The two, RJD sources said, were representative of the RJD’s greater orientation towards youth, which the party believes, will stand it in good stead ahead of the Lok Sabha poll.
Lalu has already indicated he would like to reserve 50% of party seats for the youth in the next election.