Tejashwi Yadav, the 29-year-old who is leading the main opposition party in Bihar, was summoned to the hospital in Ranchi today where his father, Lalu Yadav, is being treated for heart and other conditions.
His health allowed Lalu, age 72, parole after he was sentenced in December to five years in jail for corruption during his term as Chief Minister of Bihar in the 1990s.
Since then, young Tejashwi Yadav, who once aspired to the national cricket team , has been promoted to taking charge of the family party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD. His showrunner status has turned into a tricky venture within the family - older brother Tej Pratap hasn't exactly warmed to the idea; nor has sister Misa Bharti, who is a parliamentarian.
The trio's trips to Lalu's hospital would hardly crowd a page in the visitors' book - a lapse that has not gone unnoticed by other senior leaders of the party. "When we read the medical reports of Lalu-ji's health every day, we see he's in depression, but when people and supporters ask us why none of his sons daughter Misa Bharti visit him, we have no reply," said an RJD leader.
But the summons to Tejashwi today was issued not by a father hurting from neglect but one trying to ensure his children keep it together. Senior sources in the party say that the RJD has seen hardly activity in the last fortnight because the tension between Tejashwi and Tej Pratap is turning into hot stuff. The latter reportedly wants a larger role in running the party, a proposition discarded without scrutiny by everybody including Lalu, say sources.
"We hope that with Lalu-ji now meeting Tejashwi in person, he will find an amicable solution to the growing tension between the brothers; the infighting between them has overshadowed the party completely, " said a source close to the party patriarch.
Till July last year, Tejashwi and Tej Pratap were ministers in the Bihar government that was led by Nitish Kumar; they often bunked important events, including those attended by the Chief Minister, allowing the perception that they had no qualms about exploiting their status as the children of a powerful member of the ruling coalition. Unperturbed, Tej Pratap used to compare their roles to that of Krishna and Arjun in the Mahabharata, likely prompting so many eyerolls that they could have triggered an avalanche.
Then Nitish Kumar used corruption charges against Lalu and his sons to ditch the alliance with them (and the Congress) for a new one with the BJP.
Lalu was arrested in December last year months after that, leaving it to Tejashwi to lead the charge. With tantalizing one-liners against Nitish Kumar, to whom he sarcastically referred to as "chacha" (uncle), Tejashwi toured the state, establishing himself as a substantial crowd-puller and a natural politician - with all the benefits and minuses that inference is usually associated with.
The RJD, very much a family shop, was hoping that the BJP and Nitish Kumar would feel some pain over how to split Bihar's parliamentary seats between them ahead of the national election; instead, both sides came to a truce, however uneasy, relatively quickly.
Tejashwi's visit today saw his father instructing him on how to pick candidates from within their party; and a warning that any splashing around of sibling rivalry will fatigue the RJD at a time when it needs to be moving into top gear.