Tejashwi Yadav
Tejashwi Yadav addressing an election rally in Bihar. Image Credit: Supplied

Patna: The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded an army of party heavyweights in Bihar poll campaign to counter 31-year-old Tejashwi Yadav who is giving a serious challenge to National Democratic Alliance (NDA) chief ministerial candidate Nitish Kumar.

The latest survey conducted by Lokniti-CSDS said Tejashwi is fast catching up with chief minister Kumar in popularity. As per the survey, 27 percent people want Tejashwi as the next chief minister of Bihar against 31 percent who want to see Nitish KUmar continue. He has been the chief minister since 2005.

Tejashwi, younger son of jailed Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad, has been projected as the chief ministerial face of the three-party Grand Alliance, comprising the RJD, Congress and the Left.

The BJP has engaged as many as 30 top leaders from the party in the Bihar poll campaign to counter Tejashwi who ironically is the lone star campaigner from his party in the absence of his father Lalu Prasad, who has been in jail for the past three years in connection with a fodder scam.

For the past month, a number of BJP leaders have been making frequent visits to the state, holding meetings and chalking out strategies to checkmate Tejashwi. They included JP Nadda, BJP president, several ministers in the Narendra Modi government, chief ministers, former chief ministers and a number of the party’s national spokespersons. On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself joined the poll campaign and addressed three election rallies across the state. He is scheduled to address nine more rallies in the next few days.

Tejashwi mocked

In their address, the NDA leaders have been routinely mocking Tejashwi’s poll promise of giving one million jobs to youths if voted to power, his educational qualifications, his family background as well as raking up the issue of how his parents ran a lawless state during their 15-year-old rule from 1990 to 2005.

“The RJD regime is long gone, Lalu Prasad already facing the consequences of his mistake and it’s Nitish Kumar who has been in power for the past 15 years. So, it doesn’t make sense to blame the RJD for all the problems plaguing the Bihar. As such, the BJP or the entire NDA have no issues, and hence they are only attacking Lalu family,” commented political expert DM Diwakar, former director at Patna-based AN Sinha Institute of Social studies.

He added that the entire NDA, including the prime minister and the Bihar CM, had been constantly reminding the voters that the state would enter another phase of lawlessness if the RJD comes to power, while refusing to talk about the real issue of development, governance and jobs. “This means the NDA is left with no issue to go to the voters. Such issues are not going to help the NDA anymore,” Diwakar added.

Experts say the NDA has mounted heavy attacks on Tejashwi Yadav since his promise to give one million jobs at the time of coronavirus pandemic has been received well by the youths. Its impact could be underlined from the fact that all his rallies are drawing huge crowds of voters.

“This is not an empty promise to lure voters but my commitment. If the RJD is voted to power, a decision about filling up one million posts lying vacant in various government departments will be taken in the very first meeting of the Cabinet,” Tejashwi says at his rallies. The NDA leaders have asked where the funds for this will come from. BJP leader and Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi said giving jobs to one million people would entail an extra burden of Rs580 billion on the state’s exchequer. “How will he get he funds?” Modi asked.

The BJP, however, has made a promise to provide 1.9 million jobs - double the jobs promised by Tejashwi — to the youths if voted to power. “Till yesterday, the BJP mocked our job offer but now it has made such an offer. How absurd!” said RJD parliamentarian Manoj Jha. “This also means the BJP is under tremendous pressure and is forced to toe our line”, he added.

Tejashwi also ridiculed the NDA for his criticisms. “If I am inexperienced and have no vision, why are 20 choppers of the NDA following me. All of them have now come together to fight a 31-year- old. It means, people are listening to me and lending support to my issues,” Tejashwi said.