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The Economic Times

End of Lalu Yadav era as RJD loses ground

While Lalu is in jail and wasn’t available for campaigning for the RJD, the party founder is still its most influential leader.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal posted its worst showing ever at the hustings, with voters in Bihar dumping the caste-based politics championed by Lalu Prasad over decades.

Based on the results declared and trends available as of late Thursday, the RJD that Lalu founded in 1997 was set to draw a blank. A party that once had a considerable sway on the governments at the Centre, will have now no one in the Lok Sabha raise its voice. In 2014, it had won four seats in Bihar.

The RJD, which contested the elections in alliance with the Congress, had decided to field fewer than 25 candidates in order to accommodate small outfits like the VIP, HAM and RLSP for a favourable caste arithmetic. But its strategies seem to have completely failed at the ground level.

Questions are now raised over its grip over the Yadav votes. The RJD was on course to face humiliating defeats in all constituencies which are known for its social support base.

Lalu’s daughter Misa Bharti, who maintained a lead by a small margin of votes in Patliputra in a few rounds of counting, however went down against the party founder’s erstwhile close aide and union minister Ram Kripal Yadav.

Former union minister Sharad Yadav, who returned to the RJD, lost the Madhepura seat, which has a high population of Yadavs. Another embarrassing performance was of Chandrika Rai, father-in-law of Lalu’s son Tej Pratap Yadav, in Saran. Tej Pratap had openly opposed the candidature of his father-in-law.

RJD’s prominent leaders like former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, its Muslim face Abdul Bari Siddiqui and its old horse Jay Prakash Narain Yadav were all defeated.

The RJD-headed alliance could not perform well in areas like Araria, Purnea and Katihar, known for having large Muslim population.

While Lalu is in jail and wasn’t available for campaigning for the RJD, the party founder is still its most influential leader. But he is seen to be taking a back seat now with son Tejashwi Yadav taking charge of the party. The poll results suggest tough time ahead for Tejashwi.

Tejashwi apparently failed to highlight right issues during his election campaigning. In his bid to show the BJP as a party of the “upper castes” in Bihar politics, he gave special emphasis on the reservation issue.

During his election campaign, he opposed the Centre’s decision to introduce a 10% quota for the economically weaker sections. It apparently badly damaged the prospects of party candidates like former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh in Vaishali and Jagadanand Singh in Buxar.

In absence of RJD chief Lalu, Tejashwi had also dealt with ally Congress. “It was certainly not in the interest of the party to leave nine seats for the Congress party which has little presence in the state,” a source in the RJD said.
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