Close-door meeting of Sharad, Kushwaha, Manjhi, Sahni

Sharad Yadav, Upendra Kushwaha, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mukesh Sahni meet behind closed doors,

A closed-door meeting of some senior leaders of the opposition grand alliance in Bihar on Friday got the goat of Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal, which is the largest constituent of the five-party formation.

At a city hotel, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha and Vikassheel Insaan Party founder Mukesh Sahni spent close to an hour with Sharad Yadav, a veteran socialist leader whose name they had proposed a day ago as the "face" of the grand alliance for the upcoming assembly polls.

Also present at the meeting was Hindustani Awam Morcha president Jitan Ram Manjhi, a former chief minister, who has not revealed his cards on the issue though he is known to share, with Kushwaha and Sahni, the skepticism over young RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav's ability to lead the coalition.

The leaders refused to say what had transpired during the meeting, following which Yadav left for Ranchi where he is expected to spend the night and meet Lalu Prasad, who is serving sentences in fodder scam cases, on Saturday.

RJD spokesman Mrityunjay Tiwari, meanwhile, reacted with indignation, saying, "Any group of people can hold a meeting. But do not call it a meeting of the grand alliance. Such a meeting can never be convened unless the RJD and Tejashwi Yadav are involved."

He also seethed at the proposal regarding Sharad Yadav, who hails from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh but has spent most of his political career in Bihar where he is senior to most active politicians in age and parliamentary experience.

"It should be remembered that Sharad Yadav was a candidate of our party from Madhepura Lok Sabha seat in the general elections held last year," Tiwari pointed out, adding that Tejashwi Yadav has already been declared as the leader of the grand alliance.

"No more discussions are required on the same," he said.

Notably, Tejashwi Yadav Lalu Prasad's younger son and a 30-year-old first-time MLA had been declared as the RJD's chief ministerial candidate in 2017, weeks before his father landed in jail.

Yadav made a highly successful debut in the assembly polls of 2015 after which he became the deputy chief minister with plum portfolios. However, revelries in the camp came to an end in July 2017 with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's abrupt exit from the grand alliance and formation of a new government with the BJP.

At the party's national council meeting a couple of months ago, Yadav's name was once again floated as the chief ministerial candidate though the party seemed to flounder under his unripe leadership, having drawn a blank in the Lok Sabha polls.

Moreover, the "unilateral" declaration was resented by smaller coalition partners which felt that the RJD was still high on having the most number of MLAs and intent on steamrolling allies into submission.

The grand alliance also includes the Congress, an old ally of the RJD, which has been keeping its cards close to the chest. It has refrained from challenging the RJD's stance on leadership but maintained that "a final decision would be taken jointly by all partners".

The Congress also declined to comment on the meeting among Sharad Yadav, Kushwaha, Sahni and Manjhi, saying it was "not aware" of the development.

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