Tejaswhi Prasad Yadav, the 30-year-old chief ministerial candidate of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) for the 2020 Bihar Legislative Assembly Election, may never have played a Test or Twenty20 cricket match for India, but he is now playing on the pitch and forcing others to follow him in the electoral field of the state. To extend the cricketing metaphor, Tejashwi is not even getting caught behind the wicket, having taken care of the Election Commission (EC) guidelines and trying not to breach the instructions.
Tejaswhi started the campaign quite late, in fact, almost two months after the BJP had already launched its campaign with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in July. Tejashwi was a late riser even as the leader of opposition in the state assembly.
But now, as the choice chief ministerial candidate in the fray, Tejashwi has managed to out beat his next-door rival on Circular road, the incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar. He leaves for campaign early in the morning and by the time the chief minister starts his speech in one corner of the state, Tejaswhi would’ve already completed three meetings. In between, he finds time to give interviews to the visiting TV reporters as well.
Tejaswhi, who started his daily campaign with six meetings, is now engaging at least 16 meetings daily. On Saturday, he addressed 19 meetings, including two in the state capital, where polling takes places on Tuesday.
According to Tejaswhi, it is “14 takeoffs and 14 landings daily" on the helicopter. The RJD has hired only one helicopter, to be used by Tejaswhi. As a contrast, there are about 30 choppers being used for electioneering by the ruling party coalition of the BJP and the JDU. The BJP has even kept a special aircraft parked at Patna airport for party president J P Nadda, who leaves for New Delhi every alternate day.
Tejaswhi has become the lone wolf on the Bihar election turf with everyone, from the Prime Minister to the chief minister, campaigning aggressively against him. While Prime Minister Modi calls him “Jungle Ka Yuvraj” (the crown prince of lawlessness), Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar describes Tejashwi as the “child who does not know anything”, the ‘9th-class-pass’ son of a “jailbird”.
Tejashwi’s admirers, however, appreciate the fact that the Prime Minister has at least recognised him as a “crown prince”, meanwhile Nitish Kumar has become reportedly apprehensive of the RJD leader’s growing popularity, as he was groomed in governance by the Chief Minister himself. Earlier, Tejashwi was the deputy chief minister, he now stands the chance of becoming the chief minister, a fear grows among his challengers’ ranks.
BJP president JP Nadda, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, and every other leader in the saffron camp are all targetting Tejaswhi, almost exclusively since they purportedly recognise the threat. In their speeches, the NDA leaders can be heard asking voters to be ‘careful’ as their one mistake might just lead to the return of the infamous ‘Jungle Raj’ in Bihar under the leadership of the “9th-pass Tejaswhi”.
Bihar's deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, union ministers Giriraj Singh and Aswini Chaubey are also focused in their attack on Tejaswhi and are reminding people that he’s the son of jailed RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav. The JD(U) on Monday released a video, titled ‘Phulwaria to Hotwar’ (mocking the Yadavs for the journey from Phulwari village to Hotwar jail) for circulation among the electorate in the villages.
Ashwini Chaubey, in fact, went further when he referred to Tejashwi Yadav as ‘Yamraj’.
Tehaswhi, on the other hand, is cautious and is neither attacking the Prime Minister nor the chief minister. When asked for his comments on the Prime Minister calling him the ‘Yuvraj of Jungle’, Tejwashi said: "He is the Prime Minister, he can say anything." Reacting to the comment of the chief minister about the ‘family size’ of the Yadavs, Tejwashi noted it as a ‘disrespect’ to his mother, but said, “every word of Nitishji is like a blessing for me".
Though being in the opposition, he has already set the agenda of the election campaign by promising one million government jobs. The BJP has followed up with a promise of 19 lakh jobs, while the Congress has also made a million job promise.
As the campaign for the second phase concluded, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dismissed the claims of LJP president Chirag Paswan and RJD leader Tejaswhi Prasad’s capacity to lead the state by saying: “One failed in films, another in cricket. They have no experience."