Plodding Through Pain, Tejashwi Grows Out As Lynchpin Of INDIA’s Bihar Poll Run - Vibes Of India

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Plodding Through Pain, Tejashwi Grows Out As Lynchpin Of INDIA’s Bihar Poll Run

| Updated: May 23, 2024 17:01

Popping painkillers, wearing a lumbo sacral belt for back relief, and using a wheelchair when he can, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, the 34-year-old star campaigner for INDIA bloc in Bihar, is doing all he can to keep the prospects of the alliance afloat in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

It’s a crucial fight for Tejashwi who, irrespective of repeated setbacks and loss of power, has come up as the tallest leader in the state, where a crucial 40 seats are at stake. Tejashwi knows like anyone else, the BJP-led NDA had won 39 seats in 2019.

Elections in Bihar are stretched out across the entire seven phases, and they were just two phases in when Tejashwi developed pain in his back. On May 3, he was seen limping and walking with the help of aides while campaigning. Soon after, he was advised “maximum bed rest” and use of the belt to help ease pain and stiffness.

It has been more than a month since and, as of Tuesday, Tejashwi had alone addressed 183 public meetings in Bihar. He has also travelled to Mumbai and Delhi to campaign.

Of other INDIA leaders, Rahul Gandhi has been to Bihar just once to hold rallies, in Kishanganj and Bhagalpur. Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge has held a couple of meetings.

On the NDA side, PM Modi has held 13 rallies so far, and Union Minister Amit Shah over half-a-dozen. Besides, Yogi Adityanath and Himanta Biswa Sarma have held four public meetings each.

JD(U) supremo and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has also campaigned through all the five phases so far, and addressed 50-odd public meetings.

Recently, Tejashwi’s back pain figured in the political war of words when he said at a rally that he would not rest until PM Modi got “bed rest”. The RJD later clarified that Tejashwi meant to say “political bed rest”. Soon after, addressing a rally in Motihari, Modi said he did not expect any other words from “the successor of jungle raj”.

This attack directed at Tejashwi was not new, with Modi lately talking of “Bihar’s shehzada” (as he calls Tejashwi) more often than his pet target Lalu Prasad.
Tejashwi has been more consistent, ensuring that his campaign doesn’t stray from his theme of jobs, much like the 2020 Assembly polls when he had promised 10 lakh jobs if the Mahagathbandhan formed the government. Now he tells voters that a hiring spree just before Nitish switched back to the BJP – toppling the RJD-JD(U)-Congress government – was a result of his initiatives as then Deputy CM.

Since the fourth phase of polling, Tejashwi has added welfare schemes to his list of promises, in coordination with his partner Congress. “If the INDIA bloc comes to power, we will give 10 kg free rations and Rs 1 lakh annually to a woman per family… We will also give 1 crore jobs a year. LPG cylinder prices will go down,” he has said.

Tejashwi also talks about “the NDA tampering with the Constitution if it returns to power”. “So long as we have the present Constitution, you have reservations and equality,” he said at a public meeting in Saran recently.

A close aide of Tejashwi said the RJD leader initially thought the back pain would subside with painkillers. “When it did not, he saw doctors at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna, on May 6. MRI showed he had some issues in the spine. He was advised maximum bed rest and the use of a lumbo sacral belt.”

On June 8, campaigning in the Ujiarpur Lok Sabha constituency, Tejashwi showed the crowd the belt and said: “Despite unbearable pain, I am moving among you, taking injections and medicines… But elections come once in five years and I know that if I do not put up a fight now, you will have to live with poverty, inflation and unemployment for another five years.”
As the crowd roared, Tejashwi said: “I will not rest till I can get youths jobs.”

Tejashwi said: “There is pain and discomfort indeed, but my first priority remains being out there among the people… I have been a sportsperson and know how much my mind and body can endure. You have to push yourself to become a better player. You have to be out there in the middle for the team, no matter what.”

An RJD leader said: “There is no option of Tejashwi taking a break. Lalu Prasad ji cannot campaign because of his health and legal reasons (he is out on bail). Rahul Gandhi has addressed a few meetings, as have Left leaders, but everyone knows that Tejashwi is the face of the INDIA bloc in Bihar.”

Senior Congress leader Prem Chandra Mishra said there was no doubt that INDIA’s Bihar campaign was “surely led by Tejashwi”. About Congress leaders, Mishra said: “Rahul Gandhi did visit once. But he has been travelling across the country.”

BJP national spokesperson Guru Prakash Paswan said: “Tejashwi is free to think of himself as he wants. But the people of Bihar have made up their mind in favour of PM Modi again.”

JD(U) MLC Neeraj Kumar also played down “Tejashwi’s solo show”. “It is not something to boast about. Rather, he has sidelined Left parties and the Congress… Let Tejashwi pat his own back. The NDA has many stalwarts besides the PM,” Kumar said.

Tejashwi is not unaware of the public image that can be shaped as the battle goes on, and he lands up every day for the fight, clearly in pain.

On May 13, headed for some public meetings, he told reporters in Patna: “It is 34-year-old Tejashwi versus the country’s PM Narendra Modi, Union ministers Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, BJP national president J P Nadda, Assam CM Himanta Sarma, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, MP CM Mohan Yadav, other Union ministers, Bihar’s two deputy CMs Samrat Choudhary and Vijay Kumar Sinha, and the entire Cabinet of CM Nitish Kumar.”

He was in “excruciating” pain, “but there was no way out”, Tejashwi added. “I will continue to address public meetings till the campaign comes to an end.”

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