Boss, a boy grows up

The birth of an Opposition star

By Dipak Mishra in Patna
  • Published 29.07.17
Tejashwi Yadav. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh

Patna, July 28: The new NDA government with Nitish Kumar at the helm today sailed through the floor test in the Bihar Assembly but the show was stolen by the embattled Tejashwi Prasad Yadav who delivered a combative speech.

The young politician took on the chief minister on issues ranging from corruption to lust for power and questioned his motive behind forming four different governments in as many years. Tejashwi threw in a cheeky "boss" while addressing BJP leaders, who took umbrage and ended up exposing the generation gap.

For the record, the NDA won the vote of confidence 131-108.

Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary allowed Tejashwi - donning the mantle of leader of the Opposition less than 48 hours after finding himself ousted as deputy chief minister - the maximum 45 minutes in a well-crafted strategy to prevent the RJD members from disrupting the House.

Even Tejashwi's most ardent supporter would not have called the 27-year-old an inheritor to his father Lalu Prasad's gift of the gab. But after his performance today, a senior BJP MLA was forced to concede: "We did not expect such a good speech from Tejashwi."

Lalu Prasad's younger son, who was the first speaker at the Assembly session, hit Nitish where it hurts - on corruption, lust for power and ideological somersaults.

Speaking mostly extempore - though he did have a sheaf of papers he occasionally scanned - Tejashwi fired volley after volley in his 45-minute speech. He does not have his father's rustic wit but Tejashwi delivered enough punch lines to leave the BJP and JDU leaders with metaphorical bloody noses.

Gone was the bit IPL cricketer. Gone was Lalu Prasad's younger son. Tejashwi made it clear that a new Opposition leader had been born in his own right.

When senior RJD legislators like Lalit Yadav and Bhai Birendra began to shout slogans against Nitish, trying to add firepower to Tejashwi's assault, he shut them up. "Take your seats. I alone am enough for them," he told them firmly.

There was modulation of voice, and there was the energy and the vocabulary of the young in his speech.

" Aapke paas 91 MLA thha boss (you had 91 MLAs, boss)," he told the BJP leaders, referring to 2013 when Nitish had dismissed his NDA council of ministers, and making the point that the RJD has fewer MLAs but Nitish did not dare dismiss him from the deputy CM's post. The "boss" drew jeers from the treasury benches, but Tejashwi shot back: "Have you no shame in taking oath again?"

At this, the BJP leaders alleged Tejashwi had used "un-parliamentary" language - and Speaker Chaudhary said he would look into the objections - but Tejashwi stuck to his guns, saying he had done nothing wrong.

There were also glimpses of his father's wit in the snarky attack he unleashed on Nitish.

"You have shifted from Hey Ram (Mahatma Gandhi) to Jai Shri Ram (BJP)," he told the chief minister. "Anybody speaking against lynchings and the BJP is dubbed anti-national. Now, by joining hands with the BJP, you have become a nationalist."

He made sarcastic references to how Nitish went off to Rajgir the day the Opposition's presidential candidate Meira Kumar landed in Patna. "He (Nitish) spoke about Opposition unity but skipped Sonia Gandhi's meeting and had dinner with PM Modi the next day," Tejashwi pointed out.

He tore into what he called an elaborate "drama" by Nitish. "What has happened was a pre-planned murder of democracy. The people of Bihar have been betrayed. It was a betrayal of the poor, the downtrodden, the backward castes and the minorities," he said.

Here are some salvos he fired at the chief minister and the BJP:

Who is at fault?

"From June 16, 2013, till today, Bihar has had four governments. In the formation and dissolution of governments the people of Bihar lost time and development. Officials got confused. The change of governments took place because of one individual who wanted to build his image. The people want to know who was responsible: the RJD, the BJP, Manjhiji (Jitan Manjhi, who was tried out and replaced by Nitish) or Nitish Kumar? Everybody knows but the people expect an answer. This has been going on for years.... Sometimes the BJP sits this side, sometimes they sit that side. Sometimes I sit this side and sometimes I sit that side," he said.

Were you corrupt?

"I want to ask a question to the BJP. Nitishji sacked all BJP ministers (in 2013). Why were you (the BJP ministers) sacked? Did you indulge in corruption? You had 91 MLAs, boss, and yet you were dismissed. We are 80 MLAs but Nitishji did not dare dismiss us. Because he knew we have self-respect. You (the BJP) only lust for power. Where was the need to have four different governments in four years?"

Need someone?

"Everybody knows what a large social base Nitishji has. In the 1995 Assembly elections... his party ended up with just seven seats.... In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls he ended up with just two seats. Nitishji needs the crutch of either the BJP or the RJD."

Better than you

"Everything was all right in the 20-month rule of the Grand Alliance. It was better than the previous 29 months during which Nitishji ruled.... Everybody knows what happened during those 29 months."

What happened

"During these 20 months, Nitishji told me that he had grown old and I and Ashok Choudhary were the future of Bihar politics. He also warned us against the BJP and described it as an expert in conspiracies. What happened to your vow that you would rather die than rejoin the BJP?"

On resignation

"When the CBI raids were going on, Nitishji was in Rajgir and it was reported that he was sick. When we tried to contact him we were told he was ill. It was all planned. When I met Nitishji he asked me to give an explanation to the people. He never asked me to resign. Had he asked me to resign we would have thought about it. He should now talk to the PM and bring a law which would make it mandatory for anyone to resign if an FIR is lodged against him."

On honesty

"While I was deputy chief minister I did my work honestly. I held the road construction department and moved a proposal that no file related to the award of contracts or to variation of bills would come to the minister. Everybody knows what happens with these files, and had I disposed of these files I would have been framed. Nitishji knows who opposed the move at the cabinet."

On prohibition

"When PM Narendra Modi came to Patna in the Prakash Utsav, Nitishji requested him to implement prohibition in all BJP-ruled states. Now that he has joined the BJP, has he taken a commitment from the Prime Minister that prohibition would be implemented nationwide? Bihar should now get special package and special status."

On family

"The RJD was not obsessed with putramoh (love for son).It was bhaimoh (love for brother). Otherwise we would not have made you chief minister despite being the largest party in the alliance. I will always respect you as an elder, but I will never respect your politics."