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The Hindu
The Hindu
Sobhana K. Nair

Lalu Prasad pitches for Opposition unity at RJD national meet

Internal differences within Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) came to the fore at a meeting of its national executive held in Delhi on Sunday, with the party’s Bihar State unit president Jagadanand Singh giving it a miss and Lalu Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav storming out in a huff alleging that the leadership has been sidelining him.  

The national executive endorsed party founder Mr. Prasad’s re-election as the national president for the 12th time. He was the lone candidate to file nomination papers on September 28. 

In Sunday’s meeting, Mr. Prasad, who leaves for Singapore on Monday for a kidney transplant appeared in great spirits and spoke at length on the future road map for the party, countering the RSS and BJP agenda at the village level and bringing all Opposition parties together on a central platform to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personality centric politics. 

Addressing a press conference at the end of the meeting, national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj K Jha said Mr. Prasad’s speech focussed on the recent change in government in Bihar and how it has paved the way for greater Opposition unity across the country. 

“He pointed out that the change in Bihar is not an ordinary one. We have come together putting aside differences and ego. This has to be replicated in the whole country. Opposition will sit together, there will be talks and a progressive document will be prepared against unemployment, inflation and in support of communal harmony so that in the 75th year of independence our heritage is not destroyed,” Mr. Jha said. 

Mr. Prasad in his remarks at the meeting also reportedly emphasised the party’s own struggle for social justice. He also exhorted RJD cadre to hold small corner meetings in every village, to counter the RSS-BJP’s divisive propaganda. He wanted RJD leaders to ignite debates in every village on the “real issues” such as inflation and unemployment. 

When asked if any names were discussed to lead the Opposition front to take on the BJP in 2024 Lok Sabha election, Mr. Jha said Mr. Modi should be countered by “ mudda” or issues and not with another personality cult. “We are not buying a shampoo... that this will not work but this will work. Democracy is about collectivity, when collectivity is ended in democracy, it gives rise to Narendra Modis,” the RJD leader said. “Should the alternative to Narendra Modi be a bigger Narendra Modi or should it be collectivity?” he asked.

“Those who question how an alternative can come about, should recall 2004. Was there a ‘face’ then, when ‘Shining India’ came down? Their (BJP’s) journey from two seats to 303, will start to reverse from 2024,” he said.

Other than Mr. Prasad, Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav and senior leader Sharad Yadav, who recently merged his independent party with RJD, spoke at the event. Towards the end of the meeting, an agitated Mr. Tej Pratap said he wanted to speak about the organisation and took over the microphone. He reportedly complained that when he called general secretary Shyam Rajak on Saturday to ask about the timing of Sunday’s meeting, Mr. Rajak abused him over phone. Mr. Tej Pratap then walked out.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Rajak quoted the couplet ‘ Samarth Ke Nahi Hoth Gusai’ which loosely translates to, ‘the rich and influential are never at fault’. He refused to elaborate further. Hours later, Mr. Razak, who was staying at Bihar Niwas in Chankyapuri in Delhi, collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital. Sources said he fainted due to high blood pressure and his condition is stable. 

RJD’s Bihar unit chief Jagdanand Singh was conspicuous by his absence. Last week, his son and Bihar’s Agriculture Minister Sudhakar Singh had resigned after criticising own government and department, alleging widespread corruption. He also accused Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of continuing to work on the BJP agenda. The trouble began with his public statement that all department officials were “thieves and thereby being head of the department he is choro ka sardar [head of the thieves]”. The RJD leadership reportedly asked him to apoligise to Mr. Kumar but he refused and chose to resign instead.

While Mr. Sudhakar himself was present, his father who has reportedly been sulking after his son’s ouster, did not come for the meeting. Mr. Sudhakar evaded reporters’ queries on his father’s absence, saying, “Why don’t you ask our chief spokesperson.” 

Asked about Mr. Jagdanand’s absence, senior party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj K Jha said he has close ties with the party’s top leadership and his absence on Sunday cannot undermine his constant presence over the years. “He [Mr. Jagdanand] may not have come due to certain reasons. I can give it to you in writing that he was with us, is with us, and will remain with us,” Mr. Jha said.

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