History came full circle last week after Rashtriya Janata Dal's leader and Bihar's former deputy Chief Minister (CM), Tejashwi Yadav announced the list of Mahagathbandan - or mega alliance - in the state for general elections. The third name in the list, Sharad Yadav, will contest Madhepura seat on RJD's ticket. Ironically, Tejashwi's father Lalu Prasad formed RJD by rebelling against Sharad Yadav as he split Janata Dal. The Madhepura seat has been a witness to the animosity between both the leaders for the last two decades. The common enemy in Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only brought these two leaders together, but also nudged Sharad Yadav to contest on RJD's ticket.
Sharad Yadav continued mounting political losses over these two decades. From president of the ruling Janata Dal and Civil Aviation Minister in the nineties, Yadav crashed to being virtually a nobody. In December 2017, the then Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) chief, Nitish Kumar invoked anti-defection rules to have Yadav disqualified from the Rajya Sabha. And today, Yadav's own party, the Loktantrik Janata Dal is as good as part of the RJD.
Madhepura seat will be a survival battle for Yadav. A defeat in the elections may send him into political oblivion. The JD (U), led by Nitish Kumar seems prepared to give a tough competition to their erstwhile national president. The JD (U) has fielded state cabinet minister Dinesh Chandra Yadav from Madhepura on behalf of NDA, and RJD's sitting MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, who defeated him in the last polls has already filed his nomination from here. Pappu Yadav's wife, Ranjeet Ranjan, is Congress' candidate from neighbouring Supaul constituency. Congress and RJD are in alliance in Bihar.
In 1991, Pappu Yadav shifted to this constituency on Lalu Yadav's invitation from his Badaun constituency in Uttar Pradesh. Since then, he always contested from here. The constituency witnessed their affection, rivalry, bitterness and hatred and now will witness re-found friendship. Can Lalu's son and his party RJD save career of Sharad Yadav? Or when Lalu is spending more time in Ranchi jail, they can ensure political wilderness for his once arch rival.
It all started during the summers of 1997. Lalu Prasad (then Laloo Yadav), the then national president of Janata Dal was under immense pressure from his colleagues to resign as Chief Minister of Bihar as well as from the party's leadership. The Central Bureau of Investigation was tightening the screws on him in the fodder scam. Incidentally, he is convicted in the same case now. His rivals in the party picked up their then working president Sharad Yadav to contest against him at the national convention in the first week of July 1997.
A day before the convention, at the lawns of Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi's posh Chanakyapuri locale, Lalu Yadav with his 16 out of 46 of their party's Lok Sabha MPs and six colleagues from Rajya Sabha blamed Sharad Yadav along with ex-Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. He blasted Sharad Yadav by saying that he was being used as a remote control by leaders who are more loyal to the Bharatiya Janata Party than to the Janata Dal. Most political analysts predicted that he might lose out to Sharad Yadav; his show of strength meant exit. For two hours, the newsrooms kept guessing his next move. After all, party's Rajya Sabha MP, Inder Kumar Gujral was leading the United Front government and Janata Dal had state governments in Bihar (Jharkhand was still part of the state) and Karnataka. Gujral had become the prime minister only three months ago, and the split could have led to his exit.
As soon as the then education minister and confidant of Lalu Prasad Ramchandra Purve got up and proposed the split and name of the new party, the separation was formulated. This meant that there will be no contest between these two leaders and Lalu walked away with a new outfit by vertically splitting the party. It is the only example in Indian political history where a national president of a party led the split. Straight after this, Lalu Prasad went to the PM's house and told Gujral about the split and assured that his government is stable. Incidentally, Purve is RJD's Bihar chapter's chief and was with Tejashwi when Sharad Yadav's name was announced. After going back to Patna, Lalu Yadav resigned from the chief minister's post and installed his housewife Rabri Devi instead.
Lalu's rivalry with Sharad Yadav didn't end here. During general elections in 1998, he picked up the Sharad Yadav's constituency Madhepura to take on him and defeated him there. In 1991, Sharad Yadav shifted from Badayun in Uttar Pradesh to this constituency and was for the first time contesting not only without Lalu but also against him. In 1999, when Sharad Yadav joined hands with erstwhile Lalu's confidant Nitish Kumar and George Fernandes's Samata Party, which led to the exit of HD Deve Gowda and formation of JD (U), Lalu Yadav didn't leave him there. He again challenged him. This time Sharad Yadav won with the help of BJP's cadre there. Sharad Yadav was defeated thrice in this constituency, twice by Lalu (1998 and 2004) and in 2014 by RJD's Pappu Yadav (the then confidant of Lalu Yadav).
Now the spotlight is on the political discourse coming in from Madhepura.