RJD, A Party Stuck In M-Y Equation

The basic ideology of the party was social justice and secularism, which the party demonstrated on many occasions

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Laloo Prasad Yadav, Sharad Yadav Photo: Getty Images

By the time the central bureau of investigation (CBI) had tightened the noose around chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav for chara ghotala or fodder scam in 1997, he had become a mass leader with more than 30 per cent votes in his kitty.

CBI had already got permission from the then governor of Bihar to file chargesheet against him. But given his immense popularity, Janata Dal, the party Lalu belonged to, was not ready to take the risk of removing him, but pressure was mounting on him by various means. 

Prime Minister IK Gujral on June 23, 1997 had said that he would like Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to resign on his own, so that the United Front government is spared of the need to dismiss Yadav government. Initially IK Gujral had thought that if Lalu Yadav was removed forcibly, then public sentiment would go in Lalu’s favour and Janata Dal would face the blow. 

Meanwhile, alliance partners of Janata Dal were of the view that Lalu should be removed from Chief Minister post. United Front leader Chandra Babu Naidu had told IK Gujral that Lalu’s stature as a mass leader should not be allowed to overshadow his alleged involvement in the fodder scam. 

Janata Dal’s alliance partner CPIM had said that Lalu’s continuance as Chief Minister was harming United Front’s image.

On the other hand, Sharad Yadav announced to fight the election for the post of president of Janata Dal against Lalu Prasad Yadav.

All these pressures played a crucial role in the formation of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) on July 5 1997.  

Political researcher Bhairab Lal Das says, "on 4th July 1997 Lalu Prasad Yadav attended a dinner meeting hosted by IK Gujral in New Delhi. There too he tried to get a solution which would be acceptable to all, but nothing happened. Lalu was left with no other option except leaving the party. He had a strong vote bank so he was confident that he could win alone. The very next day of the dinner meeting he left the Janata Dal with 18 Lok Sabha members and six Rajya Sabha members and formed RJD.”

In his biography "Gopalganj to Raisina" Lalu Prasad Yadav writes, “Party had been winning under my leadership. Janata Dal won for the second time in Bihar. Janata Dal was in government at Centre. They (Janata Dal leaders) should have supported me, but their personal ambitions were to remove me from party national president. Here my patience ended, and I had decided that now enough has been done.”

Just two weeks after the establishment of RJD, Lalu Prasad Yadav resigned and made his wife Rabri Devi the Chief Minister.

The basic ideology of the party was social justice and secularism, which the party demonstrated on many occasions. Whenever any major incident happened with his core vote bank, Lalu Prasad Yadav himself would reach the spot. During the Sitamarhi riots of 1992, Lalu Prasad Yadav himself went there and monitored law and order situation and relief operations. He would often go to Dalit colonies and talk to them. He would not hesitate to ask for food from Dalit women and eat in their utensils.

In the year 1992, Lalu Prasad Yadav emerged as a big leader by stopping the Rath Yatra of Lal Krishna Advani in Samastipur and arresting him. He was seen as a strong political challenger to the Hindutva forces. This incident brought Muslims closer to RJD and Yadavs were already with the party. Muslims and Yadavs (MY) became a strong constituency of RJD but Dalits and extremely backward classes detached from him. They saw opportunity in JDU.

In the October 2005 elections, BJP's upper caste vote and JDU's Koeri-Kurmi, EBC and a section of Muslim vote together defeated the seemingly unbeatable RJD. After this defeat, RJD could not form the government in Bihar on its own.

Now, Tejashwi Yadav at the helm of party is exploring to make RJD, party of all castes. Apart from this, Tejashwi Yadav, understanding the aspirations of the youth, is talking about jobs for them, to turn them towards RJD.