RJD’s Tejashwi: The 31-Year-Old Who Almost Brought Nitish Down
Tejashwi Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal emerged as the single-largest party in the election.
While exit polls had indicated a likelihood of the Tejaswi-led Maghagathbandhan to win the Assembly elections in Bihar this time, the Nitish-led NDA still emerged victorious.
However, in an excellent show of strength, Tejashwi Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) provided serious competition to both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as well as the Janata Dal United (JDU), and emerged as the single-largest party in the election.
Yadav, who turned 31 on 9 November, has been the talking point of the Bihar Assembly elections this year. The Tejashwi Yadav of May 2019, when the RJD failed to win a single seat in the Lok Sabha elections, is now a media-savvy crowd puller.
Tejashwi, this year, faced the biggest challenge of his career of unseating the NDA from power and, that too, with his father Lalu Prasad Yadav in jail. He may not have been successful in doing so, but he has done enough to carve a legacy for his own self, one that is independent from his father and is impactful all the same.
A Former Life as a Cricketer
Tejashwi was born on 9 November 1989, just four months before Lalu Prasad Yadav became the chief minister of Bihar for the first time. He is the youngest of nine children.
Politics was not his first choice of career. He started out as a cricketer after dropping out of class 10. He was studying at Delhi Public School, R K Puram, in Delhi.
As a middle order batsman, he was in Delhi’s under-19 cricket team when Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli was playing. He played for Jharkhand during a Ranji Trophy tournament and was even chosen for the Delhi Daredevils IPL team from 2008 to 2012. He never quite made it as a great player in the sport.
In the Ranji match against Vidarbha, Tejashwi scored a measly 1 and 19 and could not take a single wicket. And as for the stint with the Delhi Daredevils, he spent all his four seasons off the pitch. His cricket coaches have said that Tejashwi was a “down-to-earth” and “well-behaved” student.
He then gave up on cricket due to an injury and entered the political arena.
The Youngest Son Turns Political Heir
Lalu Prasad picked him over his elder brother, Tej Pratap Yadav, to be his political heir.
His first public address was in 2010 when he campaigned with his father for the Assembly election when RJD won just 22 seats in the 243-member Assembly.
In 2014, Tejashwi did not contest the Lok Sabha elections as he was not yet 25 years of age. That year, the party won only four seats out of Bihar’s 40 seats, while his mother and sister lost from Saran and Patliputra respectively.
He contested his first election in 2015, at the age of 26, from the Raghopur Assembly constituency, which had earlier been represented by his father and mother. By defeating BJP’s Satish Kumar, he avenged his mother Rabri Devi’s loss back in 2010.
In the 2015 election, the RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) fought in alliance.
From Deputy CM to Opposition Overnight
The RJD-JD(U)-Congress Mahagathbandhan had a resounding victory and instead of his elder brother Tej Pratap, who became an MLA from Mahua constituency, it was Tejashwi who was appointed as Deputy Chief Minister under CM Nitish Kumar.
But in less than two years, in July 2017, the government collapsed when Nitish Kumar ditched the Mahagathbandhan and returned to the NDA.
Just a few months before the alliance fell apart, a case was registered against Tejashwi in connection with a ‘land for hotel’ scam. Tejashwi lashed out at the BJP accusing it of playing vendetta politics. Many had called for his resignation and the CBI had registered an FIR against him.
Nitish Kumar continued to rule the state with the BJP's support.
Since 2017, he has been serving as the leader of the Opposition in Bihar Assembly.
He fronted the opposition campaign in the 2019 general elections in Bihar, that flopped miserably. The RJD failed to win a single seat and the alliance managed to win just one out of Bihar’s 40 seats.
The Social Media Savvy Leader
Tejashwi has garnered a lot of support owing to his active presence on social media.
His WhatsApp initiative, where he asked people to send photos of potholes so that they can be repaired, got an overwhelming response.
He has been on top of his game when it comes to keeping up with the internet trends. Lalu Prasad’s active social media presence today (his 2,600+ tweets) are also said to be the result of a Tejashwi-effect.
Taking Over and Owning the Reins
Lalu Yadav has been hailed as a star campaigner and a charismatic leader. But in 2018 when he was arrested in a years-old corruption scandal, the junior Yadav took over the reins of the RJD.
Soon, an instinctive politician was discovered in the young scion.
He has found ways to make himself the centre of attention with the media and even at public rallies, he is often seen interacting with the crowd spontaneously.
He said in September how the ruling NDA will not fetch any more votes than his disastrous 2019 national election outcome.
He led the 2020 Assembly election campaign from the front, looking into every aspect of the Mahagathbandhan’s campaign.
He made a calculated move to let go of allies Jitan Ram Manjhi, Upendra Kushwaha and Mukesh Sahani and instead brought the Left parties on board. He also dropped photos of his parents, who are accused in corruption scandals, from the campaign posters.
His masterstroke was the pointed campaign focussed on unemployment. He promised that his government will fill 10 lakh vacancies in its first Cabinet meeting.
Tejashwi is also much loved for his witty replies, especially to 69-year-old Nitish Kumar.
So, even if Tejashwi did not emerge victorious this time, he will be remembered for the tough battle he posed to Nitish and for the massive number of seats his party single-handedly accrued.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.