With elections in Bihar expected later in the year, Tejaswi said that if given a chance he could prove such things won’t happen again. It was mature of the young leader to own up for his party and apologise. But clearly, mere apologies won’t be enough to heal wounds that are still fresh after 15 years.
Especially the indignities heaped on non-Yadavs during those 15 years. No doubt, Lalu Yadav gave voice to a people who were backward and downtrodden till then and instilled confidence in them to live with dignity. But empowering one caste needn’t have come at the cost of empowering others. The leader may have seemed overboard, but his followers went about it brazenly.
People in Bihar belonging to non-Yadav castes still remember the opprobrium of the mid 90’s when such activity was at its peak. In many areas of Patna, people would openly ask the caste of those seeking houses on rent and flatly refuse if they are not Yadavs. In 1997, when Lalu Prasad Yadav got arrested in the fodder scam, Patna localities like Danapur were barricaded , vehicles stopped and those travelling inside would be beaten up if they belonged to upper castes. This was a routine affair for quite some time. Whenever Lalu Yadav went to jail, everyone knew that roads would be blocked and avoided crossing that area at least for a week till police came and announced that things are normal.
During the last five years of RJD rule, even Lalu Yadav attempted a course correction by reaching out to members of other castes. But once out of power he was more concerned about preserving his Yadav vote bank than in adding another.
Tejashwi, on the other hand, has started course correction not too late. In March this year, the name of Mohammad Shahabuddin, currently lodged in Tihar jail, was dropped from the newly formed national executive of the RJD at the instance of the former deputy CM who felt he was too heavy a burden on the party’s image. Instead, Shahabuddin’s wife Hina Shahab found a place in the national executive.
To become an alternative in Bihar, Tejashwi needs to keep an ear to the ground, and constantly reach out to people without identifying them by their caste. Hindustan Awam Morcha leader Jitan Ram Manjhi recently accused Tejashwi to care for only one caste when he decided to visit the families of Gopalganj triple murder case. However, Tejashwi did visit family of Dalit who was killed after the Gopalganj incident.
To move ahead in today’s Bihar politics, to inspire confidence among the people, Tejashwi would need to go beyond the confines of caste politics and come across as an inclusive leader who can offer a future for everyone in the state. As for the scars of the 90’s that still remain, he can hope time will be the greatest healer.
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