Comrades to fierce rivals, how the Sharad Yadav-Nitish Kumar saga played out

After Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar returned to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2017, his mentor and party senior Sharad Yadav publicly opposed him, saying the reasons for which the Janata Dal (United) quit the BJP-led coalition in 2013 had not changed and the same person Kumar was vehemently opposed to — Narendra Modi — was still in the saddle.

This was the beginning of the end of the decades-long ties between the two leaders. Ironically, Yadav had also opposed Nitish’s decision to quit the NDA the first time around but, with Modi at the helm of the BJP, he turned into an avowed opponent of the saffron party. Yadav was said to be so opposed to Modi and the BJP under him that when Arun Jaitley reportedly offered him the Ministry of Defence he politely turned him down.

In a message expressing his condolences, the Bihar CM said on Friday, “I had a very deep relationship with Sharad Yadav Ji. I am shocked and saddened by the news of his demise. It has caused an irreparable loss in social and political fields. He (Yadav) was a strong socialist leader, a seven-term Lok Sabha MP and a three-term Rajya Sabha MP. May his soul rest in peace.” The government also declared state mourning on Friday as a mark of respect for the veteran socialist.

Yadav lost the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Madhepura to his once-time political manager Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav. He subsequently went to the Rajya Sabha and was renominated again in 2016. But, the differences with Nitish over the JD(U)’s return to the NDA irreparably damaged the relationship between the two, with the Bihar CM not taking kindly to his mentor’s open defiance. The JD(U) initiated action against the veteran leader for “anti-party activities” and the party then moved court to get Yadav disqualified from the Rajya Sabha.

In an interview to The Indian Express last year, Yadav said, “Politics is such a cruel game. I remember when Nitish came to me as a fresh recruit in politics. Without asking our leader Karpoori Thakur, I gave Nitish a position in the Yuva Janata in 1978. When Karpoori ji saw the list, he was livid. I calmed him down and said he (Nitish) was a bright young engineering graduate. Nitish kept his place in the team. So, I can take some credit for formally introducing Nitish to Karpoori ji. Cut to 2022, everyone has seen what he has done to me. But I have no regrets and do not begrudge him.”

A full circle

The two leaders knew each other from the Janata Party days but their camaraderie went up a notch after the Samata Party, which had George Fernandes and Nitish Kumar among others, merged with Sharad Yadav’s faction of the Janata Dal to form the JD(U) in 2002. The merged entity, in alliance with BJP, contested the Assembly polls in February 2005. That November, the NDA came to power.

Nitish sensed that the influence of Jaya Jaitley and Digvijay Singh was growing more amid the failing health of the then JD(U) national president George Fernandes and got Yadav nominated as party president in 2006. This marked the end of Fernandes’ influence in the party and the rise of Yadav, which lasted till 2014.

Yadav saw himself as Nitish’s equal in the party hierarchy but as their relationship deteriorated, they avoided meeting each other in public. One JD(U) leader once quoted the CM as saying, “This man got me to carry his bags for a long time, not any longer.”

In 2018, the veteran leader’s supporters floated the Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) though he did not join it because of the legal cases involving the JD(U)’s attempt to disqualify him from the Rajya Sabha. Yadav unsuccessfully contested from Madhepura in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ticket. In March 2022, 25 years after parting ways with his friend-turned-rival Lalu Prasad, Yadav merged his outfit with the RJD.

Things came full circle, politically, later in the year as Nitish again forged an alliance with the RJD in August and both the CM and his political mentor found themselves in the same camp. But the personal bonhomie that had once marked their relationship was missing as the Bihar CM did not meet Yadav when he met other Opposition leaders a few months ago in a bid to forge Opposition unity.

Thus a curious chapter of Indian political history came to a close. A tale of power, friendship, and rivalry between two of Bihar’s tallest leaders — one an ideologically malleable politician and another a committed socialist who stuck to his guns once he decided on something.

#Comrades #fierce #rivals #Sharad #YadavNitish #Kumar #saga #played

Leave a Comment