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Bihar bypolls: Tejashwi Yadav’s stock rises as RJD wins Araria, Jehanabad

The win is in many ways a personal victory for Tejashwi, who took the bypolls in the three seats in Bihar as his first test after relinquishing office as the deputy chief minister following the break up in the grand alliance in July last year.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2018 19:13 IST
Anirban Guha Roy
Anirban Guha Roy
Hindustan Times, Patna
Bihar bypolls,Bihar bypoll results,Araria
RJD’s Tejaswi Yadav (left) and Tejpratap Yadav lead a march by party workers to Bihar Raj Bhawan in Patna.(FIle )

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav on Wednesday emerged from the shadows of his father Lalu Prasad, leading the party to thumping victories in the Araria parliamentary and Jehanabad assembly seats.

Though the RJD lost in Bhabua , the twin victories helped Tejashwi, 28, shed the tag of “bachcha” in politics, as he is often ridiculed by the BJP.

Many in the RJD believe that the wins are in many ways a personal victory for Tejashwi, for whom the bypolls were his first litmus test in the absence of Lalu Yadav, who did not spearhead the campaign for the first time in two decades.

Lalu is jailed in Ranchi after his conviction in a fodder scam case.

For the younger son of Lalu Prasad, the victory will also come as a sweet revenge after chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) broke off a pre-poll alliance with the RJD and the Congress to return to the BJP-led NDA fold.

In a matter of hours, Tejashwi became the leader of the opposition from the deputy chief minister.

But Tejashwi has managed to send out a clear message that his boyish charms may still not be as lethal as his father’s rustic wit and gift of gab, but he can bring in the votes, especially where the party has its stronghold, especially its traditional Muslim-Yadav vote bank.

Araria has formidable Muslim-Yadav electorate — 40% Muslims and 20% Yadavs — while Jehanabad is mainly Yadav-dominated.

“The Tejashwi factor in Araria and Jehanabad was, surely, in play as he was able to keep the Yadav voters intact despite BJP-led NDA wooing the caste group in both the constituencies,” said Mritunjay Yadav, the RJD’s state spokesperson.

“He has filled in the vacuum of Lalu Prasad and gained acceptability as a youth leader in the party by taking on tall leaders like chief minister (Nitish) Kumar and the BJP’s Sushil Modi,” he added.

He also credited Tejashwi for his commitment to secularism, a reason why Muslims voted for the party.

Tejashwi’s projection as a youth leader, who is open to adapt and learn the ropes of politics the hard way and taking time off to indulge in poll symbolism such as eating with Dalits during campaigning, also seemingly touched a personal chord with the electorate.

“This is the start of Tejashwi era in RJD,” a party worker said in Jehanabad, where its nominee Krishna Mohan defeated Abhiram Sharma of the JD(U) by a margin of 35,036 votes.

Lalu had earlier announced Tejashwi as a chief ministerial candidate for the 2020 assembly polls. And on Wednesday, party workers in Patna reiterated Lalu’s announcement by projecting him as the next chief minister as they hailed his leadership at victory rallies.

Party leaders said Tejashwi had a foolproof strategy to reach out to his party’s traditional voters in both the constituencies.

He encashed his father’s conviction in the fodder scam to win over people’s sympathy. He also projected himself as a victim of a well-planned conspiracy hatched by the BJP and JD(U) by holding him accused in the land-for-hotel scam.

Party insiders said Tejashwi got huge response during election meetings through his forceful speeches wherein he trashed the BJP as a divisive party.

He did not hesitate in hurling barbs at chief minister Kumar, whom he calls chacha or uncle, for insulting the mandate given to the grand alliance and realigning with the saffron party for personal gains.

“Tejashwi has played his role as a young lad fighting for justice and being a victim of a conspiracy of BJP to defame him and his family in scam cases. That has paid dividends in terms of votes,” Rakesh Kumar, a political observer. He said that the Yadav scion has skillfully developed his image as a mature politician.

The cricketer-turned-politician loves to flaunt his proximity to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and regional leaders such as Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, both youth icons.

However, political observers said that the Yadav scion cannot afford to rest on his laurels as he has many challenges to face in the run-up to the 2019 parliamentary elections.

The BJP downplayed Tejashwi’s contribution in the results.

“It is too early to give all the credit to Tejashwi for the bypoll win as both the seats were in RJD’s kitty. Tejashwi has done little to create his own vote bank,” said senior BJP leader Ashok Kumar Sinha said.

Sinha questioned Tejashwi’s failure to win in Bhabua where the BJP’s Rinki Rani Pandey won by a huge margin defeating Congress’ Shambu Singh Patel.

“Bhabua is a test case to show that the RJD only has reaped benefits of its base votes and there was no wave for Tejashwi,” he said.

Tejashwi remained humble as he tweeted that “a win or loss is part of the electoral game” but did take pot shots at the BJP.

“It’s not Lalu Yadav who has been jailed but it’s the ideology which has been caged. This ideology would break the arrogance of the saffron party,” he said in another tweet.

First Published: Mar 14, 2018 19:02 IST