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Bihar Elections 2020: From Lalu Prasad to Sharad Yadav, a look at senior leaders who are missing in action

Yet, many leaders have been out of sight during the campaigning in the run up to the three-phase assembly elections. Moneycontrol lists a few of the prominent leaders whose presence on ground, many say, would have made a difference

October 27, 2020 / 06:13 PM IST
Prashant Kishor (left) with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

Prashant Kishor (left) with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

Curtain came down on Monday on the high-decibel campaigning for Bihar's 71 assembly seats which go to polls in the first phase on October 28.

Top leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president JP Nadda, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath urged voters to re-elect Chief Minister Nitish Kumar back to power.

From the Opposition, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed two rallies to seek support for the Grand Alliance led by Rashtriya Janata Party’s (RJD's) Tejashwi Yadav.

Yet, many leaders have been out of sight during the campaigning in the run up to the three-phase assembly elections. Moneycontrol lists a few of the prominent leaders whose presence on ground, many say, would have made a difference.

Prashant Kishor

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Appointed as vice president of the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) in 2018, poll strategist Prashant Kishor was expected to be on the forefront for the first time in 2020 Bihar assembly elections.

However, the 42-year-old has been conspicuous by his absence all through the Bihar election campaigning so far. Prashant was expelled from JD-U in January 2020 for criticising Nitish Kumar over the Chief Minister’s support for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). After that, he started a forum called “Baat Bihar Ki”, promising to establish leadership from the grassroots, but it has not had any visibility as yet.

An avid user of social media, Prashant had last tweeted about the coronavirus pandemic in Bihar on July 17 this year. In fact, Prashant has not sent out any tweets since July 20 at all.

Reports from Bihar, however said, Prashant is keeping a low profile and hanging out with leaders of the smaller parties like the RSLP. Many leaders within JD-U have suggested that Prashant is behind LJP chief Chirag Paswan’s decisions to leave the NDA.

Last Prashant was seen working with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party that returned to power in Delhi in February 2020.

Kanhaiya Kumar

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader and former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar has largely been missing from the poll campaigning in Bihar.

The 33-year-old leader contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Bihar's Begusarai constituency and lost to BJP's Giriraj Singh.

He was active earlier this year when he took on the Centre by taking part in protests against the CAA across Bihar. However, this election, the CPI star campaigner has restricted himself to Begusarai district where he has addressed a few rallies garnering support for CPI candidates.

Kanhaiya, billed as gen-next leader, has also not campaigned for the Grand Alliance's chief ministerial face, Tejashwi Yadav, even though the Left parties are part of the alliance.

Sources said that the Grand Alliance wants to keep him a low profile so that he doesn’t overshadow Tejashwi who is drawing huge crowds in rallies.

“I will go where my party wants. The election is not about the face it is about ideology and issues,” Kumar told reporters after a rally on October 26. Kanhaiya is also facing a trial in a sedition case.

Lalu Prasad Yadav

It is RJD's second election without its tallest leader and party supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav. The former Union minister and chief minister of Bihar, who has played a key role in Bihar politics for the last 30 years, is presently serving a jail term in the fodder scam.

In 2019 general elections when Lalu was in jail, the RJD, now led by his son Tejashwi Yadav, could not win even a single seat out of the 20 seats it contested across the state.

In 2015 assembly elections when he was around, the RJD had emerged as the single-largest party winning 80 seats in the 243-member house.

While Lalu did find a mention during the campaign, mostly in the Opposition’s criticism of his and his wife Rabri Devi's tenure as chief minister of the state, the RJD has, however, avoided using Lalu’s pictures in the campaign posters - prompting BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad to question Tejashwi why was he “ashamed of using his parents’ photo?”

"Lalu rules over the heart of people of the state. The RJD is also missing the presence of our tallest leader. However, Tejashwi Yadav is taking forward Lalu's fight for social justice. Tejashwi is ready to fulfil the dreams of Lalu Prasad Yadav," RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari said.

Many leaders say that voters are also missing Lalu Prasad`s trademark light-hearted jibes and potshots at his rivals. The RJD founder has, however, been sending his thoughts through tweets. Lalu’s close aide and former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Yadav passed away recently. The two leaders participated in 170 rallies in 2015 elections.

Ram Vilas Paswan

The political arena of Bihar is also missing Lok Janshakti Party founder and former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who passed away days before the elections.

In his absence, his son Chirag Paswan is leading the party’s solo fight by fielding candidates against JDU. Yet, Paswan’s death will have a bearing on the elections in Bihar, his native state.

Paswan, a nine-time member of the Lok Sabha, was a political stalwart from Bihar and remained a prominent leader of the Paswan section of Dailts for more than five decades. Dalits comprise nearly 16 per cent of voters in Bihar.

Since 2005, when he parted ways with his ally Lalu Prasad Yadav and pulled out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Ram Vilas Paswan had seen himself as the ‘kingmaker’ of Bihar.

Founded by Paswan in 2000, the LJP could never win enough seats to rule on its own in Bihar. However, it has tasted power and made its presence felt by stitching as well as undoing alliances.

Many say that the BJP’s leaders could not have targeted Chirag Paswan the way they are doing after his father’s death. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to Paswan before starting his poll campaign in Bihar last week.

Sharad Yadav

Veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav is also missing in action during the Bihar polls due to illness. The former Union minister had said his party Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) would contest 51 out of total 243 assembly seats.

Though a native of Madhya Pradesh, Yadav (75), has been fighting elections in Bihar either with the help of Lalu Prasad or Nitish Kumar since the days of Mandal commission movement that led to reservation for the OBCs in the government jobs.

A seven-time Lok Sabha and three-time Rajya Sabha MP, Sharad Yadav was in the JDU in 2015 when it won the Bihar polls in alliance with the RJD and the Congress.

Two years later, he quit the JDU and formed the LJD. He had unsuccessfully contested from Madhepura Lok Sabha seat in Bihar in 2019 with the support of Lalu Prasad's party. In this election, however, his daughter Subhashini Yadav is contesting from Bihariganj seat on a Congress ticket.

Bihar Election 2020: Follow Moneycontrol’s full coverage here
Gulam Jeelani

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