Article: After Rahul Gandhi, Is Tejashwi Yadav the BJP’s Next Target?

Top strategists of Bihar’s ruling alliance find striking similarities between the BJP’s “operations” against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s Tejashwi Yadav.

“The BJP has couched its diabolical operations against Rahul and Tejashwi in legal procedures. The Hindutva party has exhumed dead cases and manufactured false charges to frame the two leaders. It’s well-orchestrated,” says Bihar’s senior-most socialist leader and the RJD’s national vice president, Shivanand Tiwari.

“The BJP is at work to put an end to the legislative career of Rahul Gandhi and Tejashwi Yadav. This is because Rahul at the national level and Tejashwi in Bihar have exposed its (BJP’s) corruption. Both have touched Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s raw nerve by questioning his ‘relationship’ with Adani,” explains Tiwari.

Unlike his father Lalu Prasad Yadav – who dismissed technology and is known to have remarked “IT-YT kya hota hai” in the 1990s – Tejashwi is tech-savvy. With the help of Sanjay Yadav – a management graduate and social media influencer who is the Bihar deputy chief minister’s political secretary – Tejashwi has ensured that his party has a strong online presence. The RJD’s national, state and block level offices and functionaries are connected through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Besides, the party has a well-managed IT cell and is also said to be behind parody accounts that attack Modi and Adani.

The Janata Dal (United) president and MP Lallan Singh, another key strategist of the Mahagathbadhan, was also of the opinion that the Modi government will now target Tejashwi. He said, “The Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate have dug up the cases from Laluji’s period as the minister for railways (2004-09) which were closed twice 10-15 years ago. It doesn’t require rocket science to understand that they have framed Tejashwi in false cases. Even a child on the streets understands it now.”

Several RJD functionaries share a close relationship with Congress leaders such as Jairam Ramesh and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, and are well aware of what’s happening in the grand old party in connection with Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as Lok Sabha MP.

The RJD feels it is only a matter of time before the BJP comes after Yadav, who is already being hounded by central probe agencies in old cases, to ensure that its leader also faces the same fate as Gandhi.

A senior leader from the Mahagathbandhan said the BJP is “working overtime to get Tejashwi” to make sure he faces a similar fate to his father Lalu and Gandhi, who lost his membership of the Lok Sabha and was barred from contesting elections after his sentencing in 2013. Media reports have recently noted the irony that the ordinance which the UPA government had promulgated in 2013 – to help Lalu from immediately getting disqualified as an MP – was torn up by Rahul Gandhi, and could have come to his aid now.

Lalu Prasad Yadav

Lalu Prasad Yadav. Photo: Facebook/Lalu Prasad Yadav

Nitish Kumar working to unite opposition

The Bihar chief minister is believed to be hopeful about the opposition’s prospects against the Hindutva party. It is because of the manner in which Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, and Akhilesh Yadav – heads of the AAP, TMC, BRS and SP who, apparently, had “unbridgeable” differences with the Congress – spoke as one after Rahul Gandhi was disqualified.

The Delhi chief minister called Modi on the floor of the Delhi assembly the “most corrupt and least educated” of the prime ministers in 75 years of India’s Independence. “Kejriwal bahadur aadmi hai (Kejriwal is a brave man),” said a senior Congress functionary in Patna.

Sources close to Nitish revealed that he is happy because things are unfolding the way he has envisioned. Right since he dumped the BJP and joined the Mahagathbandhan in August 2022, he has been working for the unity of the non-BJP opposition parties. He has steadfastly rejected the idea of the “third front” and has spoken about the “main front”, asserting that no opposition alliance was viable without the Congress.

Left to Right: Tejashwi Yadav, Dipankar Bhattacharya, Nitish Kumar and Salman Kurshid. Photo: Twitter/@Dipankar_cpiml.

Shivanand Tiwari, who enjoys a strong bond with Nitish too, said, “By disqualifying Rahul, the BJP has brought the opposition parties together. It offers a ray of hope for the dying democracy in India. Long ago I had said that Narendra Modi would devour democracy.”

Manoj Jha of the RJD said, “All the opposition parties have to put their act together to send the dictatorial BJP to the grave…democracy has to be revived.”

Now, Nitish – the master strategist in the socialist circles of the Hindi heartland – is learnt to be busy chalking out a strategy to ensure that the opportunity arising out of Gandhi’s disqualification is not frittered away. Sources close to him said that he is working behind the scenes to ensure that the Congress gives the required political space to Kejriwal, Mamata, KCR and Akhilesh. This could allow them to work together with a common strategy to dislodge the BJP in the 2024 polls.

Since Nitish enjoys good personal rapport with Mamata, KCR, Kejriwal and also Akhilesh, he can work as a “link” among the parties which have reservations against the Congress. “It is high time for the Congress to use Nitish’s experience against the BJP,” said a senior Congress leader referring to Rahul Gandhi’s Saturday press conference at New Delhi in which the latter said, “All of us (non-BJP opposition parties) shall work together.”

Alternative narrative

The Bihar chief minister is believed to be working for an alternative narrative based on his government’s work in agriculture, health, manufacturing, service, tourism, education and employment sectors. He wishes this model rooted in the real issues and insulated from the rhetoric and emotive issues to be adopted at the national level in the 2024 polls. The general secretary of CPI-ML-Liberation, Dipankar Bhattacharya, has advocated for the acceptance of what he has termed an “inclusive Bihar model” indicating its broader approval by all the three Left parties – CPI, CPI(M) and the CPI-ML-Liberation which are part of the Grand Alliance.

Some observers are pessimistic about Rahul’s tirade against Adani. They feel that it is identical to his campaign around Rafale to grill the BJP on corruption issues in 2019 but the saffron party had outsmarted him by highlighting various scams that rocked the country ahead of 2014 polls and, thus, painting the Congress as “more corrupt”.

But another section of observers, including some opposition parties, believe that much water has flown under the bridge since then. “There is evidence of large-scale corruption in the BJP-ruled Karnataka and Adani is facing worldwide outrage over the Hindenburg Research report. This coupled with the BJP transporting MLAs in chartered flights to topple the government in Maharastra has tarnished the PM’s and the BJP’s image,” Manoj Jha said. “The government has to answer about the Rs 20,000 crore in Adani’s companies. Rahulji first raised this question. Now it’s the question from all of us,” Jha added.

Unlike in 2019, Rahul is not alone in his fight against the BJP this time around. His disqualification has propelled the opposition parties to work together for the common cause of ‘saving democracy’.

Nalin Verma is a senior journalist, media educator and independent researcher in social anthropology. 

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