The Rashtriya Janata Dal is gearing up for organisational polls, culminating in election of the national president in October, amid uncertainties surrounding its frail founding chief Lalu Prasad, who has held the top post since the party came into being. As per the schedule released by the party at its state headquarters here, elections for units at booth, panchayat, block and district levels will start from August 16 and conclude by September 6.
On September 21, elections will be held for state presidents and members of the state executive besides the party’s apex body the national council. The council will meet in Delhi on October 11 for the all-important election of the national president.
Prasad, who is on the wrong side of 70, recuperating from a shoulder injury and looking forward to getting a kidney transplant abroad, had floated the RJD in 1997, splitting the Janata Dal. Always elected unopposed to the top party post, Prasad is at present enjoying his 11th consecutive term as the national president. The last time he got elected was in 2019, in abstentia, because of jail term he was serving in fodder scam cases.
It has been a matter of speculation for some time as to whether the ailing septuagenarian would consider stepping down. The party rank and file has accepted Prasad’s younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav as its de facto leader. The young leader’s stature has grown since he steered the party to a handsome performance in the 2020 assembly polls, wherein the RJD emerged as the single largest party, though falling far short of the majority mark.
The elevation of Tejashwi, currently the leader of the opposition, will signal a generational shift, signs of which have been visible in moves like upper castes and women being given a greater share. However, there are apprehensions of a worsened sibling rivalry in the event of Prasad giving up even the party post for his favourite son. His eldest daughter Misa Bharti and Tej Pratap are active in politics, and though both claim to dote on Tejashwi, their stifled ambitions remains an open secret.
RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary, who is a founding member of the party, however, said it was unlikely that Prasad will do anything drastic, given the compulsions of realpolitik. Tejashwi is already having his say in a lot of matters. For example, the current state president Jagadanand Singh was his choice. So, it is not that the young leader needs more backing from his father. But Lalu Prasad must remain at the helm of affairs to keep the entire flock together. I don’t think he will step down. Ill-health hardly makes him unfit for the top party post, Tiwary told PTI.
The JD(U) of Prasad’s arch rival Nitish Kumar, with which the RJD has had a short-lived alliance in recent past, believes that the former chief minister’s party is faced with a historic opportunity in the organisational polls. The RJD professes to be a follower of the ideology of Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia. We do so as well and we have no quarrels with their claim. But, they must remember that JP and Lohia were always against the politics of nepotism and money power, JD(U) MLC and chief spokesman Neeraj Kumar said, in an obvious reference to corruption charges in which the RJD’s proverbial ‘first family’ is embroiled.
The RJD has a historic opportunity to promote workers who neither have the advantage of pedigree nor come with deep pockets. We have been doing so in JD(U). They can do likewise if they muster the will, he said.