Lalu’s absence cost RJD heavily in polls

Sushant Ranjan
Sunday, 2 June 2019

The 2019 Lok Sabha election results declared on May 23 came as an embarrassment to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav as the party failed to open an account in Bihar.

The 2019 Lok Sabha election results declared on May 23 came as an embarrassment to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav as the party failed to open an account in Bihar. The absence of Lalu Prasad from the 2019 General Elections cost him as well as his party dearly. Once a ‘Kingmaker’, the party now has no presence in the Parliament.

RJD was formed in 1997 after being separated from the Janata Dal and contested the Lok Sabha elections for the first time under the leadership of Lalu Prasad in 1998. At that time, Jharkhand was also with Bihar, and in 54 seats, RJD has contested in 40 seats. At that time, the party joined hands with Communist Party and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and won 17 seats. In 1999, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was contesting the Lok Sabha elections  under the leadership of Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As a result, the party won only 7 seats. 

The golden era for the RJD was in 2004 as its performance was the best. At that time, the party won 24 seats. RJD won 23 seats in Bihar and one in Jharkhand. Lalu had contested election in 2004 alliance with Congress and won only four seats in Bihar. 
In 2009, the party had an alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) winning only 4 seats out of 29. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party entered into an alliance with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). This time, the party contested in 27 seats under seat sharing. RJD succeeded in four seats. However, the 2014 election was considered to be the beginning of the Modi wave but still, the RJD managed to win 4 seats.

In 2019, in the absence of Lalu Prasad, his elder son Tejashwi Yadav led the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ and the election was contested under his leadership. The party formed an alliance with Congress, RLSPA, VIP and HAM without the presence of Lalu Prasad Yadav. In the seat-sharing, RJD came to the fray contesting in just 19 seats this time. But the mandate went against him. The RJD faced humiliating defeats in all constituencies which are known for its social support base.

However, the BJP said this mandate has underlined the fact that the dynasty politics has ended. “RJD started as a political party but now have turned into a pocket organisation of Lalu Prasad family. They tried to collect the parties led by caste leader like Upendra Kushwaha, Mukesh Sahni, Jitan Ram Manjhi etc in order to win the election and they failed. All these family and individual-based parties including RJD will now lose their existence in course of time,” said Bihar BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand.

“The BJP in Bihar worked hard under the guidance of National General Secretary Bhupender Yadav and leadership of state President Nityanand Rai to ensure the presence at every booth. The 2014 Parliamentary election was a Modi wave while in 2019, there was a massive Modi undercurrent which led to the victory. Inspired by the nationwide leadership of Amit Shah, BJP led NDA demolished the myth of caste ensuring the support of each and every community in Bihar. The Grand Alliance was leaderless while Narendra Modi generated hope for a better future of India,” he said.

RJD’s prominent leaders like former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, its Muslim face Abdul Bari Siddiqui and Jay Prakash Narain Yadav were all defeated. The RJD-headed alliance could not perform well in areas like Araria, Purnia and Katihar, known for having a large Muslim population. 

Senior journalist from Patna Santosh Singh said, “It is more about reasons for NDA’s success than RJD’s failure. While NDA asked people to repose faith in Narendra Modi’s strong leadership and also played up muscular nationalism, RJD stuck to its old Muslim-Yadav combination or social polarisation. It also took up old issues of a threat to reservation and Constitution besides political vendetta behind Lalu Prasad’s conviction. Young Tejashwi also failed to take up senior party leaders and his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav’s rebellion against RJD furthered worsened the case for RJD.”

“While NDA could stitch coalition of social extremes with JD (U) and LJP where upper caste, OBC, EBC and Dalits could vote together, RJD giving too much weightage to smaller parties ahead of Congress also proved Grand Alliance’s undoing because it  got over 31 per cent votes as against NDA’s 53 per cent votes,” he pointed out.

Senior journalist from Patna Amarnath Tewary said, “RJD couldn’t succeed in winning even a single seat in this Parliamentary poll because of two-three reasons: party chief Lalu Prasad was absent from the poll campaign. RJD contested this poll for the first time in absence of Lalu and his earthy wit, humour and off-the-cuff remarks during the poll campaign used to make an instant connection with his voters which was missing this time. Secondly, RJD failed to form a suitable alliance with other Mahagathbandhan parties on certain seats and eventually, the party’s leadership couldn’t match the indomitable aura of Modi. Lalu may have declared his younger son Tejashwi Yadav as his heir apparent but its core voters i.e. Muslims and Yadavs appeared not impressed with the leadership.” However, JDU spokesperson Dr Ajay Alok said, “It’s a people’s mandate. People voted for development and not for dynasty politics.”

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