Patna: A Delhi court granted bail to Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav and his family members in the alleged land-for-jobs scam on October 5. On the very same day, the Enforcement Directorate arrested Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh in connection with the Delhi liquor policy case. Soon after he was granted bail, the fact that Tejashwi appeared before the media to condemn Singh’s arrest rather than speak effusively about the bail and his ‘uprightness’ makes him stand tall among the current crop of politicians for whom politics is all about themselves.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is torturing all regional parties which are doing good work,” he said, extending solidarity to AAP, which is in crisis as three of its top leaders are currently imprisoned. “I condemn the arrest of Sanjay Singh. The BJP is harassing the parties which are addressing the issues concerning the people.”
He added, “The BJP is frightened more at the release of the caste survey report in Bihar and Bihar government giving employment in lakhs to the youths. They (the BJP) are incapable of fighting a political battle. The only recourse they know is to misuse the central agencies against its opponents. But we don’t fear. These diabolical moves will strengthen our resolve to defeat the BJP.”
Following up on Tejashwi’s statements, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP and spokesperson Manoj Jha personally visited Singh’s family to extend his party’s support. Although other constituent parties of the INDIA bloc condemned the arrest of Singh, it was only the RJD which went a step further to send its representative to his house.
Tejashwi’s response to the BJP’s onslaught on AAP is sharply at variance with the cold relationship that his father and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal are known to have.
Lalu Yadav has been critical of AAP since the period it emerged from the Anna Hazare-led movement against corruption in 2014. Lalu has differences with Kejriwal and AAP for he perceives them as “anti-Mandal” and inimical to the battle for social justice. He also suspects that Kejriwal is closer to the Sangh parivar’s philosophy which the former Bihar chief minister detests.
Kejriwal and most of his party men, including Sanjay Singh, were very critical of Lalu on the issue of corruption. They perceived that their association with the RJD in any manner would cost their credentials as ‘anti-corruption’ crusaders – the plank on which it emerged on the political map.
In 2015, when Lalu hugged Kejriwal at a meeting (of Mahagathbandhan), Kejriwal said openly that he did not like it. Lalu then responded by saying that it was a “courtesy of [a] public stage” while clarifying that there was no change of heart on his part in the way he viewed AAP.
Lalu Prasad Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal. Photos: Lalu Prasad Yadav (Government of India/GODL License) and Arvind Kejriwal (Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi/GODL License)
But Tejashwi’s approach to Kejriwal and AAP is in sharp contrast to that of his father. It goes without saying that Kejriwal will rethink his and his party’s relationship with the RJD, particularly after Tejashwi’s public show of support.
What appears to have brought the RJD and AAP closer are the central investigating agencies – Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) – framing their leaders in corruption cases. Both parties say the cases represent a misuse of central agencies.
Incidentally, one day after the Rouse Avenue court granted bail to Tejashwi and the CBI arrested Sanjay Singh, the Supreme Court questioned the CBI and ED’s charges against another AAP leader and former deputy chief minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia in strong words. “Where is the proof? Where is the evidence? Except for the statement of Dinesh Arora (a businessman), is there any other evidence? How will you bring Manish Sisodia under the Money Laundering Act?” the top court said whilst hearing Sisodia’s bail plea.
While the Supreme Court’s observation has created doubts about actions against the AAP leaders, the manner in which the two central agencies have implicated Tejashwi in the land-for-job case is hardly convincing.
According to the CBI and ED, some candidates obtained jobs in the railways in lieu of plots of land that they gave to Lalu when the latter was the minister for railways (2004-09). Tejashwi was a minor at that time, playing cricket as a member of the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI)’s Under-15 team and living away from the family.
Moreover, the CBI itself dropped these allegations in 2011 after it had said there was “no evidence” to carry them forward. But the CBI and ED suddenly raided establishments connected to Lalu in Patna and Delhi in 2017, when Tejashwi was the deputy chief minister in the Nitish Kumar-led first Mahagathbandhan government, reopening the case.
Also read: So Why Is the CBI After Tejashwi Yadav Now?
They fell silent again for five years after Nitish broke away from the Mahagathbandhan and rejoined the BJP. However, they carried out raids on Lalu and his family members after Nitish returned to the Mahagathbandhan again in August 2022.
Intriguingly, Tejashwi didn’t figure in the original chargesheet of the land-for-jobs scam case. But the CBI named him in the supplementary chargesheet filed last month.
Tejashwi Yadav broadly appears to have three special attributes that contrast him with other young leaders.
First, his complete focus on the issues concerning the people. For example, during the 2020 assembly elections, when he was fighting a lonely battle against the BJP-Janata Dal (United) with his father in jail, Tejashwi promised 10,00,000 jobs to the youth if his party was elected to power. He based his campaign on the issue of employment and outsmarted Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who addressed as many as 31 election rallies in Bihar at that time. Even though the RJD was unable to form the government, it emerged as the single largest party with 78 MLAs.
Lalu Prasad Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav. Credit: PTI/Files
Now, as deputy CM, he has shown that he can implement what he promised. The Nitish Kumar government has already given over two lakh jobs since the Mahagathbandhan government was formed in August last year. Bihar is said to be far ahead of others in providing employment to the youth, whereas Modi and his Union government have failed.
Secondly, he had joined hands with Nitish Kumar to ask for the caste-based census when he was in the opposition. Now, Bihar is the first state to have come out with the caste survey report, giving strength to INDIA’s campaign against the BJP.
In a way, the young Tejashwi is quite sharp in identifying the issues that would succeed against the BJP’s gargantuan election machine. Secondly, he is bold, a trait that he has inherited from his father.
He personally went to express support to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during the 2021 assembly elections, when Modi had mocked Mamata as “Didi-o-Didi” and the investigating agencies were after her party’s top leaders.
Mamata was overwhelmed by his support at the time when political leaders from other parties acted diplomatically to avoid Modi’s ‘wrath’. As a railway minister, she had tabled a White Paper against Lalu’s tenure. But when she came to attend the first conclave of the opposition parties in August, she bowed down before Lalu.
And Tejashwi’s third but equally important attribute is deference to elders. He has the utmost respect for Nitish, his father’s contemporary, and avoids speaking when he is with the chief minister. He touches his father’s feet whenever he goes out of home and returns.
Nalin Verma is a senior journalist, author, media educator, and independent researcher in folklore.