They have worked together in college days almost four-and-a-half decades ago, but Sushil Kumar Modi and Lalu Prasad Yadav have for long now been political adversaries. Yet, there is a recent twist to their saga of public spats, what with the entry of a new character.
Of late, it is a son of Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Yadav who is retorting most of time when BJP state leader Modi launches tirades against the current Nitish Kumar regime. Deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who observers says is emerging as the Lalu scion as part of a “family strategy”, would come out with counter-statements almost every time the RSS-affiliated Modi criticised the Grand Alliance government.
Tejashwi is a good 42 years younger to his ex-CM father known for his rustic wit. Lalu’s sarcasm has often pushed his political opponents to the back foot, but the RJD founder has of late virtually deputed 26-year-old Tejashwi to openly give it back to his student-days contemporary in Patna University.
In the recent past, Modi has launched an all-out attack against the Nitish regime backed by a six-party ‘maha gathbandhan’ that is at the core an alliance between the chief minister’s Janata Dal (United) and the RJD Lalu founded in 1990. Whether it be through print, electronic or social media, the BJP leader wastes no chance in attacking the ruling alliance and its administrative policies.
Modi largely seeks to target “super CM” Lalu, but Tejashwini would invariably jump in, by taking on the BJP leader blow for blow and trying to draw the entire fire towards himself rather than to his 68-year-old father.
When Modi cried hoarse against a “deterioration” in the state’s law and order situation after the GA government took office last November, Tejashwi hit back by citing the crime scene in the country’s BJP-ruled states. Compared to theirs, Bihar stands “much better”, he added, reeling out data by the National Crime Record Bureau.
The hostility further grew when Lalu suggested that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre included Hindustan Awam Morcha (Secular) head Jitan Manjhi in the union cabinet. The RJD supremo, “no longer a chief minister or MP, has no work”, retorted Modi.
Modi, 64, had also asked Lalu why he had not made his eldest child Misa Bharti, elected to the Rajya Sabha recently, or his elder son Tej Pratap Yadav the deputy CM instead of his younger son Tejashwi. The idea, political observers say, is a calculated to sow seeds of discord among the siblings.
The BJP leader, who is a former deputy CM of Bihar, had also accused the RJD chief of “patronising” criminals including incarcerated former MP Mohammed Shahabuddin after the GA came to power. “Lalu has become a parallel power centre by interfering in the affairs of key departments like health and road construction, held by his two sons,” he added.
Tejashwi hit back, saying the BJP leader “seems to have forgotten social etiquette” and was making such statements out of political desperation. “Will Modi now decide what will be cooked in Lalu’s house or where his family members will go, whom they meet.” the son reacted, adding that Modi should refrain from negative politics, as “I am like your son (putratulya)”.
On Thursday, Tejashwi wrote an open letter to Modi, asking why he was keeping mum on an allegation that BJP’s Purnea MLA Vijay Khemka had threatened a mines officer. “Youths like me, who are like your son, would have been inspired if you had publicly scolded the legislator or sought his dismissal from the party,” the deputy CM wrote. “But, you have adopted a stoic silence unlike normal times when you react on everything--be it on house, doors, sibling of leaders, pilgrimages and what not.”
He even mocked Modi for being denied a Rajya Sabha berth (in the recent biennial election) and for being ‘ignored’ by the national leadership of the BJP.
GA sources said Tejashwi’s bid to attack Modi was a strategic ploy by the RJD to enhance Tejashwi’s ‘political stature’, as part of efforts to facilitate his emergence as the “rightful heir” to the father’s legacy.
On is part, Modi has preferred not to train his guns at Tejaswhi, instead hit out at Lalu and Nitish in his statements, indicating it is they two--and not the second-tier leadership of the GA constituents--he treated as his rivals.
The Tejashwi retorts have prompted some of the BJP leaders in Bihar to go for a change of the saffron party’s political strategy. “True, Modi is still the big face of the BJP in our state, but we need to bring in new faces to counter the second generation of leaders in GA, especially those in the RJD,” said a senior leader.