Tejashwi Yadav, son of former Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav and his heir apparent, on Friday gave his wholehearted backing to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate of a united opposition.
Tejashwi shares a good rapport with the Gandhi scion and has held numerous meetings with him in the last few months. But till now, he had hedged his bets and never spelled out his support for Rahul openly.
In a wide-ranging conversation with News18, Tejashwi for the first time said that he undeniably considers the Congress chief to be PM-material. In the run up to the Karnataka election in May, Rahul had staked his claim to the PM post, saying he was ready to take the mantle if Congress emerges as the single largest party after 2019 elections.
Tejashwi said he sees nothing wrong with what Rahul said and responded in the affirmative when asked point black if he would support him for PM’s post.
“Sure. I would not mind him,” he said.
On being asked if other opposition heavyweights like Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav too would back Rahul, the young leader gave a cautious response.
“All these leaders are capable to become PM but personally I don’t mind Rahul,” he told News18. He added that for now, everyone is together and shall remain like this. “BJP is raising all these leadership questions because it is nervous of our unity,” he said.
Question marks have been raised about Rahul’s ability to lead the opposition front, and the grand iftar party he threw, his first as Congress president, did not do him any favours.
In the absence of Sonia Gandhi, most opposition bigwigs like Mamata, Mayawati and Akhilesh stayed away and sent middle-rung leaders of their parties instead.
Tejashwi’s own iftar party, held at the same time as JD(U)’s, however, was a big success as not only did he put to rest rumours of a rift with his older brother Tej Pratap, but the presence of Shatrughan Sinha was also a big talking point.
Tej Pratap, in a tweet a few days ago, had invoked the Mahabharata to imply that he felt he was being sidelined in the party by his younger brother. But Tejashwi dismissed this and said that what Tej Pratap said was for the good of the party.
“Some wrong people had joined our party so Tej Pratap said we should remove them. The party listened to him immediately,” he told News18.
“The issue is not about Tej Pratap or Tejaswhi. The party is being run by Lalu Prasad. Tej Pratap and I were together on Lalu’s birthday and during the Iftar party,” he added.
When asked about why the younger brother has taken reins of the party in Lalu’s absence, he said the party collectively decides who will play what role. “There are no question marks over anyone’s capability. Let the public decides who they want as the leader. Everyone in the party is fulfilling their responsibility properly,” he said.
The younger Yadav, who has always rooted for a joint opposition, said that the results in the bypolls in Araria, Jahanabad and now Jokihat in Bihar were proof that the people are with RJD and not Nitish Kumar.
He railed against the Bihar CM, who he tauntingly calls chacha, for his policies but did not rule out his return into the Mahagathbandhan fold. “Politics is unpredictable,” he said when asked out the chances. On being prodded further, he said it would be difficult to trust him as he may walk out on the alliance again.
He said it is essential that the opposition, which has been buoyed by the string of victories in bypolls, stays united. “It is essential because we have to put a stop to Nagpur deciding the law of the land,” he said, referring to the RSS’s influence in government’s policies.
But at the same time, Tejashwi has not stopped trying to woo NDA’s allies and parliamentarians. While MP Shatrughan Sinha attended his Iftar dinner, an invite also went out to disgruntled NDA partner Upendra Kushwaha.
“Upendra Kushwaha is not honored in the NDA. How will he accept the face of Nitish ji? The invitation from my side is still open for him,” he said.