Patna: Visitors to the RJD headquarters in Bihar capital feel intrigued by a new election poster put up in front of the premises. It is gigantic in dimensions but without an image of its larger than life founding president Lalu Prasad Yadav. This is probably the first instance in the last couple of decades when Lalu Prasad Yadav’s face is missing from posters.
Prasad’s younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav will be leading the opposition Grand Alliance as its chief ministerial candidate. Tejashwi finds a pride of place on the huge rectangular sheet with a yellow background which promises nayi soch, naya Bihar (a new Bihar with a new vision). He features in the poster alone. The poster has Tejashwi’s photograph, looking resolute with arms across the chest. A blue-coloured map of Bihar forms the background.
The second line of the election slogan coined by the party, ‘yuva sarkar, abki baar’, is shorn of the earthy imaginativeness that was characteristic of Lalu. The slogan sounds like a straight lift from the slogan ‘abki baar, Modi sarkaar’ of 2014 which had caught the nation’s attention.
Old-timers, however, are not impressed with the idea of dropping from the RJD poster its jailed supremo. He is acknowledged, across party lines, as the biggest crowd puller ever seen in Bihar’s political arena.
Lalu floated RJD as a splinter group of the Janata Dal he was heading in 1997. Since then the party has been synonymous with his persona.
“All members of his family, be it his wife Rabri Devi, whose tenure as chief minister was longer than that of her husband, or their sons… they are nothing more than a pale shadow of the chief who is, ironically, the party’s biggest asset as well as liability, said an old associate of Lalu. The former Bihar chief minister is lodged in judicial custody in Ranchi.
Wanting not to be named, he pointed out how the once powerful RJD drew a blank in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when Lalu was behind bars in the Jharkhand capital after his conviction in fodder scam cases.
NDA leaders also scoffed at the ‘belated’ attempt by the RJD at an ‘image makeover’ by leaving Lalu out of the poster. They also said if Lalu came out of jail, it will benefit the NDA more than the RJD.
Die-hard Lalu loyalists, however, still feel that the party supremo’s charisma matters.
They fondly recollect how the RJD clinched 80 of the state’s 243 Assembly seats while contesting the 2015 polls in alliance with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), the Congress and some other smaller parties. Lalu was then not in jail and had extensively campaigned for the Grand Alliance.
With Lalu in jail and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a former Union Minister and an influential Rajput leader, dead, it remains to be seen if Tejashwi, as projected in the poster, can steer the party out of the woods in the Bihar elections that are likely to be held in October-November.