Bihar: Prashant Kishor's Inroads Into An Impregnable Fortress Has Caused Tejashwi Yadav The Jitters

Abhishek Kumar

Jul 09, 2024, 10:07 AM | Updated 10:06 AM IST

Prashant Kishor’s entry should not have worried Tejashwi Yadav. But it has.
Prashant Kishor’s entry should not have worried Tejashwi Yadav. But it has.
  • RJD’s worries are rooted in the fear that Prashant Kishor will eat into its biggest strength — a very dedicated cadre base.
  • A recent supposedly internal letter of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) highlights the party's worries about its future in Bihar politics.

    The letter specifically attacks poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who is gearing up for the 2025 assembly election.

    The letter is written by RJD Bihar chief Jagadanand Singh and directed at the party's cadre.

    Penned in the backdrop of the cadre joining Kishor's Jan Suraaj party, Singh requests key leaders and cadres not to join Kishor and his ongoing yatra.

    Interestingly, Singh launches a quasi-personal attack on Kishor by bringing his caste into the equation.

    Kishor does not use his family surname, the purpose of which is unknown. However, its political significance is that Kishor gets the public's ear without any caste-related prejudice.

    However, in his letter, Singh highlights Kishor's surname by writing ‘Prashant Kishor or Prashant Kishor Pandey’.

    In Bihar, the surname Pandey is used by either Bhumihars or Brahmins. RJD derives its political identity from opposition to upper castes (Bhumihars and Brahmins included), and a reference to Kishor’s caste is an indirect appeal to its supporters to not support Kishor.

    RJD also presents the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a party of forward castes in Bihar, which is why Singh found it prudent to term Kishor's party the B team of the BJP.

    The RJD letter claims Jan Suraaj is controlled and financed by the BJP and its religious leaders.

    Then, it calls Lalu Yadav a leader for social justice and communal harmony and names multiple historical leaders, some of whom had opposed each other in their time. These leaders include Mahatma Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Karpoori Thakur, Periyar, Jyotiba Phule, and Ram Manohar Lohia.

    The letter also warns of punitive action if any member engages in anti-party activities.

    RJD’s concern is genuine and rooted in the fear that Kishor will eat into its biggest strength — a very dedicated cadre base.

    In its formative years, RJD relied on strongmen like Mohammad Sahabuddin, Pappu Yadav, Sadhu Yadav, and Subhash Yadav, among others. These leaders aped the style of erstwhile feudal lords and established their respective dominions.

    When the Lalu Yadav-led RJD needed votes, they looked towards these men. As Lalu’s clout increased, people under the influence of these local leaders joined the party in the name of social justice and became dedicated cadres.

    The usual rhetoric of ‘vote for me or the upper caste will come to power’ worked for Lalu and company in building a cadre base.

    In the pre-electronic voting machine (EVM) era, the cadre’s dedication prompted many to accuse them of booth-capturing to win elections. The allegations were never proved, but instances of booth looting are cited even today when the topic of 'Jungle Raj' comes to the fore.

    When RJD lost power, the only solace it had was that its cadre base was largely intact, though the major leaders and even strongmen kept changing sides for power.

    Between 2005 and 2019, the party saw a large decline in its vote share. However, the cadre always had its spirits up. Even when Pappu Yadav left, it was Pappu who lost support rather than the other way around.

    The dedication and trust towards Lalu and RJD are such that the cadre wholeheartedly welcomed Tejashwi and Tej Pratap Yadav, the inexperienced and bewildered kids of Lalu.

    In one sense, it is blind faith towards the party and leader, which means Kishor’s entry should not have worried Tejashwi. But it has, and the reason is the way in which Jan Suraaj is metamorphosing from a movement into a party.

    Kishore’s yatra focuses on three key aspects: problems, solutions, and whether existing political setups have been able to provide the solutions. Talking along these lines, Kishor and his team are galvanising people around Kishor’s vision for the state.

    Kishor himself does not shy away from chiding people for their voting patterns, which are mainly based on blind loyalty towards party, religion, and caste. His team is also building goodwill by providing a blueprint of solutions to local problems.

    On the contrary, RJD or any political party’s cadre base mainly talks about the problems and does not give any blueprint for actionable actions. People associated with Kishor are doing it, which is why an exodus from established political parties is now underway on a large scale.

    Even BJP leader Sanjay Paswan acknowledged that his party’s cadre is drifting towards Kishor’s vision.

    The political dynamics in Bihar have been stagnant for more than three decades, primarily comprising caste and religion with a sprinkle of development.

    Merely talking about development for votes won’t work now. That is the message Kishor’s movement is conveying.

    Kishor will, however, need to ensure that importing people from other parties does not result in the import of diseases plaguing their functioning.

    Abhishek is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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