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2015^,* iV 1 ASSEMBLY POLLS BIHAR

He quips, moving towards others in the room. The post would appear soon on Facebook wall of many users in Bihar, asking them to ponder whether the Prime Minister was economical with the truth when he promised to bring back black money stashed in overseas bank accounts. In all likelihood, it will also prod them to ponder whether the scion has a message noteworthy enough to step into his father’s shoes.

Anu, an MBA graduate from Sikkim Manipal University, is the only woman among the six professionals hired by the RJD to run the war room
for Tej Pratap and younger brother Tejaswi at the three-acre farmhouse. In the last three months the six, led by IT professional Rakesh Kumar Singh, have already finished the first phase of their job—making an exhaustive database comprising every voter in Mahua and Raghopur. Those are the two assembly seats Tej Pratap says he and Tejaswi intend to contest in the assembly elections likely to be held in October or November.

“We have succeeded in connecting with the voters of the two constituen­cies,” Singh says. “If a person in any
of the two constituencies sends us a message about, say, a dysfunctional transformer, we first alert the offi­cial concerned and then connect Tej Pratap Sir with that person. The job is usually done in a day or two.”

Tej Pratap, say his team members, also intervenes whenever required. From sending RJD leaders to resolve disputes among neighbours to call­ing block-level officials for work such as issuing certificates or pensions, the political science graduate from

LALU PARIVAR IN POLLS

A look at RJD’s performance in assembly and Lok Sabha polls

2005

February Assembly Polls Single-largest party

Seats Wins Vote share 215              75             25.07%

Rabri Devi

wins from Raghopur

2005

October Assembly Polls Floored by JDU-BJP

Seats Wins Vote share 175              54             23.45%

Rabri Devi

retains

Raghopur

2009

Lok Sabha Polls Nosedive from 22 in ’04 Seats Wins Vote share 28 4               19.31%

Lalu Prasad

wins Saran seat

Lalu Prasad

loses in Patliputra

 

ASSEMBLY POLLS BIHAR

 

 

 

Patna’s B.N. College—incidentally the same college and the same course that had spawned another student leader called Lalu Prasad so many summers ago—tries to sort out such issues for the locals.

Having collated names of every voter—along with their caste profile, contact numbers and, as an adden­dum to Lalu’s tried-and-tested caste chemistry, Facebook details of those active on social media, the team regu­larly reaches out to these users, check­ing whether everything is all right in their locality, helping them connect with the two young Yadavs, and in between slipping in a subtle political message about how effective the siblings would be as their legislators. In his lat­est Facebook post, Tej Pratap in fact has sought public advice on how to regulate Bihar hos­tels better—an issue he wants to discuss with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar soon.

More than a decade after their father dismissed comput­ers as just another western fad which too will fade away with time, the brothers are investing a huge amount of their time and energy on the same technology to take Lalu’s empire forward.

R

JD insiders concede that when Lalu accepted Nitish Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate of the Janata Parivar coalition with Nitish’s Janata Dal (United), he informally declared the end of his era. For, this was the first time in 25 years since Lalu took over as the Bihar chief minister that he had agreed to project an outsider for the post. The irony being, Lalu has done it for his family—he agreed to look outside his family to establish his children in politics.

Barred from contesting elections since his conviction in a fodder scam case, having had a heart surgery last August, his party at an all-time low in terms of seats (see box) and dumped as a coalition partner by the Congress— at the behest of another scion, Rahul Gandhi—Lalu is fast running out of
options. Ahead of what is for him and his party a make-or-break elec­tion, he has pinned all hopes on Tej Pratap, Tejaswi and daughter Misa Bharti. While many of his colleagues have parted ways, some have been ousted—expelled Madhepura MP Pappu Yadav says, “Inheritance is fine in property and assets but can­not be allowed in politics”—and still others, bereft of options, have fallen in line on this issue of dynasty politics. In private, most senior RJD leaders are not happy at Lalu’s efforts to hand over the baton to one of his children.

But they dare not confront the chief­tain. Ergo they rally around the Next- Gen Yadavs.

Of the three, Misa, 38 years old and Lalu and Rabri’s first born, is known to be sharp, persuasive, politically ambi­tious and possessing the most mature and astute political brain among the siblings. Although she contested the Lok Sabha elections last summer from Patliputra, a seat her father also contested from in 2009, and lost, the gold-medallist MBBS and mother of two faced a crushing defeat. She lost to BJP’s Ram Kirpal Yadav by more than 40,000 votes. Ever since, she has
stayed below the radar—neither seen nor heard so far in the run-up to the assembly elections. Misa has not even indicated whether she will contest the elections, although it is speculated that she may spring a surprise on poll eve, better prepared than before.

At 5 feet and 8 inches, the mild- mannered Tejaswi comes across as a smoother, more suave version of his father. Unlike Lalu’s homespun man­nerism and carefully nurtured rus­tic charm, Tejaswi is urbane, speaks fluent English and weighs his words carefully. Also unlike his outspoken elder brother Tej Pratap, the commerce graduate who cap­tained the Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram, cricket team and was with the Delhi Daredevils IPL team for four seasons with­out getting a game, keeps his cards close to his chest. Like the eldest sister, he does not even say whether he is interested in contesting the polls, although Tej Pratap gives out the con­stituencies earmarked for the two brothers.

That leaves the elder brother to inherit the mantle. And Lalu too seems to have come to such a conclusion. An inch taller and a year-and-half older, Tej Pratap, the more accessible and straight- talking of the two, was initially thought to be his mother’s favou­rite while Tejaswi was seen as Lalu’s inheritor. However on April 5, when Lalu told his party’s national executive that only a son can succeed a father, the young man accepting greetings and garlands from youth wing members of the RJD was Tej Pratap.

For now, there’s no big, radical pic­ture they are projecting; the brothers are talking about the youth and trying to raise students issues. But whether those can pack enough horsepower to gather speed like their SUVs—Tej Pratap is often seen wheeling a Toyota Fortuner, while Tejaswi steers a Ford Endeavour—and win elections out­side college campuses is a story whose climax can be written only by a face­less crowd called the Bihar