In 1997, when Sharad Yadav took over as president of the Janata Dal, the parent party then ruling at the Centre split into several groups – with Lalu Prasad forming the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Naveen Patnaik floating the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), and Ram Vilas Paswan propping up his own outfit Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Twenty years later, Sharad now faces the risk of being thrown out of the party he has been associated with since 1974, albeit in its earlier avatar of the Janata Party.
The Writing on the Wall
Sharad was a fresh graduate in electrical engineering from Jabalpur Engineering College when he won his first Lok Sabha election (then a bypoll) from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh in 1974.
Since then, he has won seven Lok Sabha elections and two Rajya Sabha polls, but his third stint in the Upper House is now laced with uncertainty – given his rebellion against the JD(U) strongman, Nitish Kumar.
A JD(U) spokesperson hinted that Sharad Yadav may be suspended from the party on 19 August. “A veteran parliamentarian, Sharad has this time, however, failed to read the writing on the wall,” said JD(U) spokesperson, Neeraj Kumar.
A terse message from Nitish, that he should either accept the party decision of aligning with the BJP-led NDA or be ready to choose another path if does not fall in line, gave ample evidence that he is likely to be suspended on 19 August, the day JD(U) holds its national executive meet in Patna.
The founder president of the breakaway Janata Dal would not have anticipated a ‘doomsday’ hanging over him like a Damocles’ sword. But he has only himself to blame for his miscalculations and over-ambition.
Shooting Himself in the Foot
After winding up his three-day Bihar tour from 10 to 12 August, a yatra was convened to gauge public mood in the aftermath of Nitish deserting the Grand Alliance. Sharad may have said for public consumption that the real JD(U) is with him while the sarkari JD(U) is with Nitish (for perks, ministerial berths, and other favours).
But deep within, he knows how he has shot himself in his foot. There was not one legislator from his party to receive him at the airport. And the two former MLAs, Ramai Ram and Arjun Rai, who accompanied him during his Jan Samvad programme from Sonepur to Madhepura, were spent forces with doubtful credentials.
Not one JD(U) MLA or MP was seen with Sharad during his three-day Bihar tour. He may be spitting fire against Nitishji, but he is actually trapped in putra-moh. He wants a Lok Sabha ticket for his UK-educated son from Madhepura constituency he once represented. This wish may be fulfilled by none else than Lalu Prasad.Neeraj Kumar, JD(U) Spokesperson
“The man, who quit when charged in hawala scam in mid-90s, has not spoken a word against corruption charges of Lalu and his family members. This is precisely because there is apparently a quid pro quo arrangement with Lalu. If the RJD chief goes to jail in the latest corruption cases, Sharad will mentor Lalu’s two sons, besides taking care of the RJD. In turn, Lalu will help Sharad’s son make a political debut in 2019,” said the JD(U) leader.
Other senior leaders like Bashistha Narain Singh – who led a delegation to Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu informing him that Sharad has been replaced by Nitish’s confidant RCP Singh as leader of the JD(U) Parliamentary Party in the Rajya Sabha – asked Sharad not to cross the Lakshman rekha of indiscipline.
Party secretary general KC Tyagi also suggested that Sharad raise the voice of discontent, if any, at the party forum when the national executive meets on 19 August.
Sharad seems to be in no mood for rapprochement. After finding out that he had been ousted as leader of the JD(U) Parliamentary Party in the Upper House, he said:
This party is as much mine as it is of Nitish. I am not scared of anyone. When I was not scared of Indira Gandhi, then why should I be scared of lesser mortals.
An unrepentant and unrelenting Sharad added that he would continue to call a spade a spade.
Sharad appears to be unmindful that his obstinate approach may seal his fate. After all, Nitish – who, much like Sharad, is also an electrical engineer, has been a JP protégé and product of Sampoorna Kranti movement, became a Union Minister for the first time with Sharad in VP Singh government, has been in and out of the NDA along with Sharad – may not tolerate any act of indiscipline against him any more.
Besides, now that Nitish is tipped to be the NDA convenor by month-end, he may not hesitate in showing the door to the man who held the same post during the Vajpayee-Advani era.
(Neena Choudhary is a Bihar-based journalist. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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