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Lok Sabha 2024: How Tejashwi Yadav Has Taken Over the Mantle in Bihar

For the folks in Bihar, “Paltu Chacha” as Nitish is described in the state, has become a joke and a caricature.

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(This is the eleventh in a series of insightful reports from the ground, titled The Race From India to Bharat. The author travels all across India as 960 million voters get ready to celebrate the largest festival of democracy in the world: the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. What do ordinary Indians think and feel about the past, present, and future of India? Are they convinced that the old fault lines are healing?)

(Read part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here, part six here, part seven here, part eight here, part nine here, and part ten here.)

The moment you enter Patna, there is a sense of relief since you have left Siwan after a four-hour spell of interacting with people about the adventures of the late gangster-politician Mohammed Shahabuddin. Across Patna, there are huge cutouts and posters of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. I didn’t find any with Narendra Modi starring along with Nitish Kumar. Perhaps I missed them. The drive from the outskirts of Patna to the hotel was surprisingly smooth.

After checking in, the author decided to take a stroll on the streets, talking to people and shooting the breeze. After all, people in Bihar may be deprived of most of the benefits of a rapidly growing India, but they don't lose their enormous enthusiasm for debates, not just on politics, but also the war in Ukraine, or the chances of Donald Trump becoming the president of the United States.

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The first taste the author got of what ordinary Biharis are thinking came when I bought some Jhal Mudhi, a unique puffed rice snack famous in eastern India. It cost only Rs 10. A couple of other customers were enjoying the mixture laced with green chillies and mustard oil. They guffawed when I raised the topic of Nitish Kumar.

The laughter was derisive and scornful. For these folks, Paltu Chacha as Nitish is now described in Bihar, has become a joke and a caricature. One of them says, “Forget Nitish Babu. You come to Patna towards the end of 2025 and you will find Tejashwi Yadav as the chief minister. Paltu chacha and his JD(U) [Janata Dal (United) would have disappeared.”

His companion nodded heavily in agreement and added, “Look at the mature manner in which the young Tejashwi Yadav behaves, compared to the tantrums of Nitish. He is the future of Bihar.” When I asked them about their political affiliation, one unhesitatingly said Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) while the other said he has opted for the RJD, JD(U), and even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the past. According to them, while Narendra Modi might triumph in the Lok Sabha elections, it is Tejashwi Yadav who will come of age in the 2025 Assembly elections.

For a while, I thought that was a sweeping statement and perhaps a partisan one too. But when I spoke to a few journalists based in Patna, there seemed to be a consensus that Tejashwi Yadav has decisively and successfully taken over the mantle from his father Lalu Prasad Yadav. Even while the author was in Patna for a couple of days, the youngest son of Lalu was attracting huge crowds to his rallies across the state. The young leader, from what the author could see through television news clips, never abused Nitish Kumar. He just talked about how his alliance in Bihar is determined to rescue democracy from the clutches of Narendra Modi.

It might sound funny to some based in Delhi like the author, but there is no doubt that Tejashwi Yadav has connected with the vast crowds. The author recalls trips to Patna in the mid and late 1990s when Lalu Prasad Yadav would enthral his supporters with rustic rhetoric laced with sarcasm. Tejashwi is more refined, but the charisma seems to have remained intact.

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After speaking to many across the ideological and political spectrum, the author recalled a column he had written in 2021 in which he had analysed how Tejashwi Yadav had missed becoming the chief minister of Bihar in December 2020 by a whisker.

I checked the Election Commission of India website once again and realised that Tejashwi missed out in 2020 only because he was too generous with the Congress party. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 125 seats in the 243-seat Assembly, while the Mahagathbandhan led by Tejashwi won 110. The RJD contested 144 seats and won 75. The Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) contested 19 and won 12. The Congress party contested 70 seats and won just 19.

Imagine, if the Congress party had a more decent strike rate, the results would have been completely different. Or if the RJD had refused to give so many seats to a ramshackle and bedraggled Congress. RJD supporters say that Tejashwi will not make the same mistake in the 2025 Assembly elections.

What about charges of corruption? It makes no difference to the supporters of Tejashwi. They are convinced it is all a strategy by the BJP to fence in their popular leader. In any case, despite being a convicted criminal, Lalu Prasad Yadav is still a hero to his core vote bank which is about 30 per cent of the electorate in the state. Tejashwi is a hero as well. Barring a conviction in the land-for-jobs scam in which Tejashwi is an accused, he looks destined to be the next chief minister of Bihar.

(Sutanu Guru is the Executive Director of the CVoter Foundation. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  Tejashwi Yadav 

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