The politics of bromance: Why Tejashwi, Rahul are singing Ye Dosti

Saif Ullah Khan
Saif Ullah KhanJun 04, 2018 | 21:19

The politics of bromance: Why Tejashwi, Rahul are singing Ye Dosti

The bonhomie between the two leaders is a marked contrast from earlier times.

Tejashwi Yadav, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and former Bihar Deputy CM, has firmly put his weight behind Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s pitch to be the Opposition’s PM choice in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Speaking to the Hindustan Times, on being asked about his reaction to Rahul Gandhi’s recent statement — that he was ready to be his party’s PM candidate if the Congress became the largest party — the young leader from Bihar said, “He is ready to be the PM. His logic is not wrong. Whoever is the largest party — like the BJP in 2014 — has claimed the Prime Minister’s post. If some other party emerges as the largest, they too can claim it.”


Tejashwi went on to add: “If the people of this country have made up their mind to make Rahul the PM, no one can stop him.”

Bonhomie: The two young leaders have made it a point to display their camaraderie.
The start of a beautiful friendship: The two young leaders have made it a point to display their camaraderie publicly.

While the Opposition's unity has gained currency post-the defeat meted out by it to the BJP in the politically significant Lok Sabha by-polls to Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, the RJD’s support to the Congress does date back to the days of UPA 1. Tejashwi’s father and former supremo of the party, Lalu Prasad Yadav, had a very warm relationship with then-Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Old ties: Lalu Yadav had been among the chief defenders of Sonia Gandhi during the Agusta-Westland controversy.
Old ties: Lalu Yadav had been among the chief defenders of Sonia Gandhi during the Agusta-Westland controversy.

Besides being part of that alliance, Lalu was also at the forefront of defending the government. When the Agusta-Westland deal controversy broke, Lalu was up in arms against the opposition BJP, and attacked the party for “trying to trap Sonia”.

But Lalu wasn’t always so warmly welcomed across the Congress.

In 2013, Rahul Gandhi, then-Congress vice president, chose to publicly castigate the Manmohan Singh government for issuing an ordinance to negate the Supreme Court order on disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs, terming it “complete nonsense” that should be “torn and thrown out”.


His reference was as much to Lalu, who was facing the heat over allegations then of graft in Bihar’s fodder scam. At that point, it seemed like Rahul was prepared to take a stand on Lalu which even his own party wouldn’t entirely back.

Of course, there was also the time when Rahul Gandhi tore up an ordinance that could have saved Lalu from being disqualified as MP.
There was a time the dosti could have been in shreds...

However, the 2014 electoral loss, and the subsequent Modi wave, seem to have forced a political rethink on Rahul Gandhi’s part. 

Almost four and a half years after tearing up the ordinance that could have saved Lalu from getting disqualified, Rahul called on the former Bihar CM at AIIMS in Delhi recently and inquired solicitously about his health. Lalu, who is serving a jail term now over the fodder scam cases, was undergoing treatment at the health institute when the Congress president visited him.

But almost four years later, the Congress president came to meet the now jailed Bihar leader in hospital.
Between a hug and a handshake: The new warmth was visible.

Ever since the united Opposition defeated the BJP in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the grand alliance seems to have only gotten stronger. While the post-poll Congress-JD(S) alliance in the Karnataka Assembly elections gave the opposition a further shot in the arm, the recent gains in the 2018 by-polls, where the opposition wrested the politically significant Kairana seat from the BJP, along with winning 11 out of 14 berths being contested, has made the alliance official.


The 2014 Modi sweep was led predominantly by the consolidation of OBC, Dalit and tribal votes along with the BJP’s core voters. These groups left the parties they traditionally backed and ensured a mammoth tally of 282 for the ruling party.

While the Opposition parties have been successful in keeping the Dalit votes together now by ensuring that Mayawati’s BSP remains a part of the alliance — a move on display in the recently concluded Kairana by-polls — the RJD led by Tejashwi is ensuring that the OBC (especially the Yadav) votes stay with them.

With the SP’s Akhilesh Yadav taking charge of OBC votes in UP, it is left to the former Deputy CM of his state to hold the fort in Bihar, in the absence of his jailed father. With Bihar having a crucial tally of 40 seats in the Lok Sabha, the young leader is leaving no stone unturned in taking on the BJP-JD(U) alliance.

Showing great political acumen, the young satrap help a press conference as soon as the Jokihat Assembly by-poll results were announced, where the RJD defeated the JD(U) candidate. Tejashwi blasted the ruling combine at his presser, which he started by thanking all the opposition parties, taking time to individually name all the leaders.

On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi, long criticised for being “arrogant” and politically indifferent, knows the significance of this crucial state, and makes sure to personally interact with Tejashwi. Last year, their bonhomie was on display when Rahul took the Bihar leader out for lunch. Tejashwi reciprocated by tweeting pics and thanking Rahul.

At the presser he addressed after the Jokihat by-poll win, Tejashwi took the time to individually name all the leaders.
O for OBC votebank: Tejashwi has his eye on a particular goal.

Apart from forming a personal bond, this camaraderie also sent a signal to the politically crucial Yadav votebank, something that the Opposition plans to cash in on, not only in Bihar, but also in Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from a united Opposition, the ruling BJP is also facing an attack from its own allies. With one of its oldest partners, the Shiv Sena, deciding to fight against it in the recent by-poll in Maharashtra’s Palghar, to Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu deciding to walk out from the NDA months before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is finding it hard to keep its friends together. Even small allies – like Bihar’s Ram Vilas Paswan, long considered to be the bellwether of national politics – are also deciding to speak out on various issues, such as atrocities against Dalits and demonetisation.

In contrast, it seems like Rahul – and regional leaders like Tejashwi – have realised the benefits of keeping friends happy. 

With almost all parties vying for the leadership role in the grand alliance now, it will be the personal relationship between leaders that will decide the future of the Opposition’s unity. While the Opposition seems to have arithmetic on its side, it is the chemistry between the leaders of its different parties that will be the deciding factor in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. For now, Tejashwi and Rahul’s dosti could be the start of many new things.

Read this story in Bangla

Last updated: June 11, 2018 | 12:50
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