Ahead of the assembly polls in Bihar—set to be fought over the pivotal plank of 15 years of Nitish Kumar versus 15 years of Laloo Prasad Yadav—the RJD appears to have put its final card on the table. Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who is steering the RJD in the absence of his incarcerated father, has sought forgiveness from the people of Bihar for any mistake his party might have made during its reign from 1990 to 2005 in the state. “Yes, we had been in power for 15 years, but I was a child then. I was not in the government…. One cannot deny that Laloo-ji had done social justice. That was another era, but if we made any mistake or did any lapse, I am sorry for that,” Tejashwi announced at a party function recently, much to everyone’s surprise.
The 30-year-old leader’s stand is at variance with his party’s usual approach of brushing aside all allegations against the Laloo-Rabri Devi regime, which are still believed to have led to the RJD’s defeat in successive polls. Tejashwi’s apology for mistakes made during those years is an apparent bid to disown the baggage of the past and make a fresh beginning, while blunting the Nitish-led NDA’s campaign against the Opposition alliance. In virtual interactions over the past few weeks, the CM has directed the ruling JD(U) cadre to “spread the word about what…anarchy prevailed during those days (the RJD years),” giving ample indication that this will remain the key issue for the NDA as in previous polls. NDA leaders mocked Tejashwi for saying sorry for the RJD’s mistakes. Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi says Laloo’s family does not deserve to be politically pardoned for Bihar’s “15 years of dark age”. “Development came to a standstill even as Dalits, ‘backwards’ and traders were being killed,” the BJP leader tweeted. Sushil says Laloo shamed Bihar by ushering in poverty and violence, but “never atoned for it or offer any apology”. “The people finally had to punish him,” says the BJP leader.