Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal on Saturday reaffirmed its faith in the leadership of his younger son Tejashwi Yadav, a day after he failed to turn up at the party's foundation day celebrations, raising many eyebrows. At the RJD national executive meeting, where Yadav was present, the party unanimously passed a resolution declaring that it will contest the Bihar assembly polls due next year under his leadership.
The meeting was also attended by Yadav's mother Rabri Devi, elder brother Tej Pratap and eldest sister Misa Bharti in what appeared as an attempt to assert that all was well within the family, which controls the 32-year-old party, and to dismiss the speculation of a rift among the siblings vying for supremacy.
This is the second time that the party has made such a proclamation through a resolution. It made a similar declaration at the party's national council meeting here in November, 2017 during which, among other things, Prasad was made the national president for a period ending in 2020.
Prasad went behind bars a month after the 2017 meeting, and serving sentences in a number of fodder scam cases, he is currently lodged in a Ranchi hospital on account of ill health.
The 29-year-old Tejashwi, who led the party during the Lok Sabha polls, went into a sulk after the RJD suffered its worst debacle, failing to win a single seat.
He was said to be particularly upset with Tej Pratap who launched a parallel outfit during the general elections and allowed some of his close candidates to enter the fray as rebel candidates. At Saturday's function, however, Tej Pratap - who likes to compare the younger sibling to Arjuna and himself to Lord Krishna - gifted a copy of the Bhagvad Gita to Tejashwi.
Addressing the meeting, Tejashwi Yadav lambasted "some elements in the party fuelling rumours" of his quitting the RJD switching over to the NDA - which is in power in the state.
Notably, the RJD heir apparent had served as the Deputy CM when the Grand Alliance comprising his party, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and the Congress.
The party lost power after Kumar walked out of the alliance and returned to the NDA following lodging of money laundering cases against Yadav in connection with financial irregularities that took place while Prasad was the Railway Minister and the young leader a minor.
RJD patriarch Shivanand Tiwary, who had on Friday criticised Tejashwi for giving the foundation day celebrations a slip, comparing him to a "lion's cub hiding in his den", trained his guns at Tej Pratap at the national executive meet.
Without mentioning the mercurial elder brother by name, Tiwary said in his speech, "We lost thinly contested seats like Jehanabad because of the treachery of our own people. There is a need to identify such elements and expel them".
The RJD lost Jehanabad by a margin of just about 1,000 votes, much less than the votes polled by a rebel candidate said to be a loyalist of Tej Pratap Yadav.
However, talking to reporters on the sidelines of the function, Tiwary clarified, "It is not my intention to berate the young leaders. Their father is like my younger brother. My concern for them is similar to what a father will have for his own children. Moreover, we are faced with a situation where trivial squabbles must be given up for fighting a bigger battle".
Meanwhile, dissident MLA Maheshwar Yadav - who has for long been stressing on the need for a change in party leadership - caused a flutter saying, "We should learn from the example set by Rahul Gandhi who has stepped down as Congress president".
"I would urge Lalu Prasad and his family to do something similar. Prasad could himself give up the party president's post and install someone he trusts, someone like (party MLA and national general secretary) Bhola Yadav to the top post. Similarly, Tejashwi Yadav and Rabri Devi should give up the post of Leader of Opposition in the state assembly and legislative council respectively," Yadav said.
"Abdul Bari Siddiqui, who has formerly been Leader of the Opposition in the assembly, should be reconsidered for the post. State president Ram Chandra Purbe, a member of the legislative council, could replace Rabri Devi. This would infuse fresh energy into the party," Yadav said while being away from the venue of the national meeting, where leaders refused to comment on his remarks.