His election tours began on October 16, seven days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first rally in Bihar on October 23.
The 2020 Bihar Assembly Elections, among other things, will be remembered for the energetic and confident campaign by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s political heir Tejashwi Yadav — he was sprinting from one rally to the next. In total, he addressed 247 rallies and four road shows, the highest by any leader in this election.
His election tours began on October 16, seven days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first rally in the State on October 23. And in every rally, he repeated in front of a delirious crowd, “Ek Mauka aapne Bhai ko dijiyega… dijiyega ya nahi? Jis din aapka bhai mukhyamantri banega, apni kalam se 10 lakh naujawano ko sarkari naukri dega [Will you give one chance to your brother. The day your brother becomes the chief minister, he will sanction 10 lakh government jobs].”
Also read: Political takeaways from the Bihar campaign
On October 20, the first opinion poll by Lokniti-CSDS, predicted a six per cent lead for the NDA alliance ahead of the ‘Mahagatbandhan’.
The very next day Mr. Yadav took out 12 rallies. His highest number on a single day was 19- on October 31, when he took the battle to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s home ground Nalanda. Out of the 19 rallies – four rallies were in Nalanda alone.
Roaring enthusiastic crowds
With roaring enthusiastic crowds responding to his every word, the RJD managed to pitch the contest as an energetic Mr. Yadav versus a ‘tired’ Mr. Kumar. The 31-year-old repeatedly from the stage exhorted the 69-year-old Mr. Kumar to retire.
Mr. Yadav didn’t automatically ascend to the driving seat. Former Bihar Chief Minister who leads Hindustan Awam Morcha Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was part of the ‘Mahagatbandhan’ then was the first to raise questions about his leadership. Mr. Manjhi quit the alliance in August after, among other things, he wanted the allies to pick their leader by consensus, a condition which the RJD outrightly rejected.
In September, another ally, Upendra Kushwaha, quit. This was followed by the dramatic exit of the third ally, Mukesh Sahani of the Vikassheel Insaan Party, on October 3, the day the ‘Mahagatbandhan’ announced its seat- sharing arrangement. Mr. Sahani walked out of a press conference, saying he had been backstabbed over a vague promise of being accommodated from the RJD’s share. During these campaigns by the smaller allies, the Congress also occasionally spoke out against Mr. Yadav’s leadership.
The rallies ended any doubt there was. At the end of the 20-day long campaign, Mr. Yadav had addressed 47 rallies for the Congress candidates. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who was the most visible face of the party in the State, addressed only eight rallies. Mr. Yadav has addressed another 23 public meetings for the Left parties, mainly the CPI(ML) and is undoubtedly the face of the ‘Mahagatbandhan’ today with the slogan – ‘Tejashwi Tai Hai!’ Even his father Lalu Prasad’s photographs were removed from posters to offload the burden of “jungle raj”, the central theme of Mr. Kumar’s campaign.
It is not just the number of rallies, observers point out that at no point did Mr. Yadav react to provocations by the Prime Minister or Mr. Kumar. Mr. Modi called him “jungle raj ka yuvraj” and there was no retort from the RJD to it. Mr. Yadav insisted that he is sticking to his agenda. Mr. Kumar, without directly referring to Mr. Yadav said that development could not be expected from those who have 8-9 kids or a son. In response Mr. Yadav merely called the Chief Minister “mentally and physically tired”.
The RJD leaders themselves are surprised by the response they got. “This was not planned. We do not have the resources to bring people to the ground in buses. The crowd that you saw in rallies were completely spontaneous. What you saw was Tejashwi being directly in sync with people,” senior RJD leader Manoj K Jha said.