Tejashwi Yadav, Bihar's new Deputy Chief Minister, today described Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's return to the “socialist family” as a “slap in the face of the BJP”. He said the BJP's attempt to “intimidate or buy out” regional parties is aimed at “finishing off the politics of backward classes and Dalits”, because most such parties represent such sections of society.
The RJD leader cited his father Lalu Prasad Yadav's old ties with Nitish Kumar, who revived the JDU-RJD-Congress ‘Mahagathbandhan' (Grand Alliance) after dumping the BJP earlier this week. “In Bihar, all parties against the BJP are now on the same side. Nitish-ji made the right decision at the right time. This will happen across India now,” Mr Yadav said, speaking in Hindi.
He skirted a direct question about Nitish Kumar possibly being the Opposition's PM face in 2024, and instead spoke about what the BJP had promised. "What happened to the 2 crore jobs a year?" he asked rhetorically.
On his promise of jobs in Bihar, he said it's good that the BJP and media are “finally talking about pressing matters” — away from “communal politics of Hindu-Muslim divide”. “It's an achievement that we have forced them into addressing real issues. We will keep our promises. Just wait a little bit.”
He said he's walking the path of his father. Lalu Prasad Yadav, on bail in corruption cases, is also in Delhi recuperating from medical issues. “My father has fought communal forces all his life, fought for social justice and for the poor. Woh na dare, na jhuke,” the 32-year-old leader said.
Nitish Kumar, too, “saved his ideology” with the decision to switch back to alliance with RJD, he added.
Having drifted away from Lalu Yadav and others from the 1970s anti-Establishment movement, Nitish Kumar was BJP's partner for two decades until 2013. He walked out of the NDA over Narendra Modi's past – particularly the 2002 Gujarat riots – when he was projected as the PM face. The Grand Alliance (JDU-RJD-Congress) won Bihar in 2015 with Nitish Kumar as leader — Tejashwi as deputy — but he went back to PM Modi's BJP midway, in 2017. Now, he's done the reverse.
“We have made allegations against each other. But we are one family. We are all socialists,” Tejashwi Yadav said, about the back-and-forth.
He cited instances of bonhomie even when they were on opposite sides in the assembly. “Once during a lot of chaos in the House, Nitish-ji called me his “bhai samaan dost ka beta” (son of a brother-like friend). Another time, he told me “Babu baith jao” (sit down, son) — it was like an instruction, but also love, like a blessing. I sat down.”
Tejashwi Yadav spoke of a larger agenda linked with the BJP's alleged usurping of parties.
“Regional parties are mostly of the backward classes and Dalits. Nitish ji is from a backward community. The BJP also divided the party of (Ram Vilas) Paswan-ji,” he said. “If there are no regional parties, there will be no Opposition in the country. And that will kill democracy. The BJP wants to rule like a monarchy.”
He cited Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP came to power after mid-term collapse of governments. “They were trying the same thing in Jharkhand. We have seen through the drama.”
“The ED, CBI are now worse than a local police station,” he said, alleging political misuse of central government's probe agencies.
Mr Yadav's Delhi visit is linked to more immediate matters, though — finalising the ministers in the new Bihar government. He met CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury and CPI's D Raja, besides Mrs Gandhi, in this context as well.
The cabinet — at present just Nitish Kumar and him — is due for expansion early next week.
That'll be followed by a special session of the assembly near the end of the month, when the new government will prove its majority.