“Yeh do beechre hue bhaiyo ka milan hai (it marks the reunification of two long lost brothers).”
With these words, former Union Minister Sharad Yadav merged his Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Lalu Prasad Yadav on Sunday.
The coming together of the two veterans came after 25 years and the function was held at Sharad’s residence in Delhi.
Sharad Yadav's camaraderie with Lalu Prasad Yadav dates back to the 1970s when Janata Dal was formed after the Emergency.
Formed in 1988, the Janata Parivar was founded by former Prime Minister VP Singh. The Janata Dal that disintegrated in the late '90s, was formed when scattered factions came together.
Current Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar in the year 1994, rebelled against Lalu’s control of the Janata Dal in the state and allied with George Fernandes to form the Samata Party, which became a partner in the coalition led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The last major split in the Parivar took place in the mid-90s, when Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav clashed over the presidentship of the erstwhile Janata Dal, according to Indian Express.
Lalu Prasad Yadav left the Janata Dal to form the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Sharad Yadav in the later year merged with Nitish Kumar’s Samata Party to form the Janata Dal (United). By the year 1996, the Janata Dal was divided into RJD, BJD, JD(S) and JD(U).
Lalu's rivalry with Sharad Yadav doesn't end at the splinter of the parties. During the Lok Sabha elections in 1998, Lalu decided to contest from Sharad Yadav's constituency Madhepura and defeated him there.
However, Sharad avenged his defeat in 1999 Lok Sabha polls despite RJD rule in Bihar. In 2004, the scene reversed. This time, Lalu avenged his defeat at the hands of Sharad.
Lalu, in 2004, had also contested from Chapra. He retained Chapra and resigned from Madhepura. (In the 2004 by-election, Pappu Yadav won from Madhepura).
Lalu-Sharad rivalry continued till Mahagatbandhan was formed in 2015. But when Nitish joined the BJP-led NDA in July 2017, Sharad sided with RJD-alliance.
His decision to not follow Nitish led to his expulsion from the Rajya Sabha.
Joining hands with Lalu
At the event on Sunday, Sharad Yadav merged his party LJD with RJD and pitched for coming together of all forces fighting the ruling party.
The LJD never fought elections since its inception while its chief Sharad Yadav lost the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Madhepura on the RJD ticket.
पूर्व केंद्रीय मंत्री शरद यादव (@SharadYadavMP) ने अपनी पार्टी लोकतांत्रिक जनता दल का आरजेडी में विलय कर दिया है। ऐलान के बाद शरद यादव और तेजस्वी यादव (@yadavtejashwi) ने विपक्ष के सभी नेताओं को एकजुट होने का इशारा किया है ताकि मौजूदा केन्द्र सरकार से मुकाबला किया जा सके। pic.twitter.com/ozhZK9ehoG
— IANS Hindi (@IANSKhabar) March 20, 2022
"Merger of our party with the RJD is the first step towards forging the Opposition unity. It's imperative that the whole Opposition gets united across India to defeat the BJP. As of now, unification is our priority. It'll be only after that we would think about who will lead the united Opposition," he added.
Former Union minister Sharad Yadav merges his Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Lalu Prasad Yadav at former's residence in Delhi. pic.twitter.com/zAUOaXRGrQ
— ANI (@ANI) March 20, 2022
He hailed Tejashwi Yadav as Bihar's future and played down reporters' queries about the possible leader of the opposition parties if they were to unite. Citing past instances, he said parties have first joined forces and a leader was picked later.
A broader unity of opposition parties should be the first step considering the situation in the country, he said.
"This step (merger) has been necessitated as an initiative of my regular efforts for bringing together scattered Janata parivar in view of the current political situation in the country," he had earlier said in a statement, claiming the BJP government has been a failure and people are looking for a strong opposition.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav welcomed the veteran leader into his party's fold, saying it is a message for the anti-BJP parties to unite to take on the ruling dispensation.
During an event in Patna recently, Tejashwi had also called Sharad a "father-figure and socialist icon". "Everyone knows the importance of veteran socialist Sharad Yadav in Indian politics. He is a father figure and would guide us.”
Their merger marks a complete circle for Lalu and Sharad. Reports state that after the merger, the RJD is likely to nominate Sharad Yadav to the Rajya Sabha during biennial polls for the Upper House slated for June.
With inputs from agencies