How Tejashwi Yadav made Bihar polls a close contest

Bihar polls: How Tejashwi Yadav turned a one-sided battle into a close fight

Equations in Bihar in the last few days have changed very fast

Till the Election Commission announced the poll dates for the Bihar Assembly elections, the battle of Bihar looked like a one-sided contest, with Nitish Kumar all set to get a fourth straight term.

But Tejashwi Yadav, the 31-year-old son of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi, in the last fortnight, has not only turned the tables upside down, but has made the bitterly-fought elections a fierce fight, with either of the two camps equally poised to romp home.

So fast has the equations changed in Bihar in the last few days that even the strongest opponents of Tejashwi are now ‘researching’ how this has happened.

Political scientists say the difference lies in the poll strategy adopted by the leaders on both sides of the fence.

While Nitish and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been raking up past issues and reminding the voters of Lalu’s ‘Jungle Raj’ and, at times, making personal comments about Tejashwi, Lalu’s heir apparent has focussed primarily on three issues: Kamai, dawai and padhai (Jobs, Healthcare and Education). This has made the RJD leader, much like his father, strike an emotional chord with a large section of voters.

“Whoever is the brain behind Tejashwi’s new approach to connect with the voters, should be identified and lauded. After all, Bihar polls were never fought on issues like jobs, migration, health or education. Most of the previous polls were held on the lines of divisive agenda of caste and religion. Tejashwi has set a new benchmark,” says veteran journalist of a national daily Rakesh Pandey.

“It is on this front (the agenda) where Nitish and Modi have erred and failed to catch up with the young lad who has been drawing a huge crowd at his every rally, so much so that the RJD had to write to EC to enhance Tejashwi’s security,” the political commentator told Deccan Herald.

BLESSING IN DISGUISE

Tejashwi has hardly responded to Nitish when the Bihar CM got personal and remarked, “Some people gave birth to nine children in the hope of having a son”, in an oblique reference to Lalu-Rabri’s nine children.

Or, for that matter, when PM Modi called Tejashwi as the ‘Jungle Raj ke Yuvraj’, Tejashwi avoided responding with the same venom. He merely said, “Modi Ji is the PM. He can say anything.” On the jibe by Nitish, Tejashwi responded, “All the abuse by Nitish Ji is like a blessing to me.”

On Friday, the Mahagathbandhan chief ministerial candidate again challenged Nitish and Modi to speak and debate on the issues of jobs and education, instead of raking up the past or making personal comments.

“Respected Nitish Ji accepts that in the last 15 years, he has destroyed education, health, industries of the state. Besides, he has ruined the future of two generations. This is precisely why he avoids speaking about unemployment, industries, jobs, investment and migration,” tweeted Tejashwi in Hindi.

Nitish and Modi, however, remain obsessed with ‘Jungle Raj’.