Tejashwi Yadav, the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, has been invited to join Rahul Gandhi’s “Bharat Jodo” yatra.
Congress leaders in Bihar met with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and his parents, former Chief Ministers Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi, on Sunday.
The Congress leaders urged Tejashwi Yadav to join Rahul Gandhi on his foot march, claiming a huge public response to the 12-state, 3,500 km campaign.
The invite comes days after Tejashwi Yadav raised doubts about the Congress’s leadership of the opposition and suggested that in some states, the party should take the back seat.
“The Congress should fight the seats where it is in a direct fight with BJP, but wherever regional parties are stronger, as in Bihar, it should let us sit in the driving seat,” the RJD leader said last week.
The Congress, however, stressed at the same time that it would not allow itself to be weakened further. “If [the Yatra] results in opposition unity, it is good and we welcome it. But our priority is to strengthen the party organisation,” said senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.
The invite to Tejashwi Yadav hints at the Congress’s attempt to bring regional allies on board with its leadership of the opposition and to prove that Rahul Gandhi has acceptability beyond his party.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has received a similar invite.
So far, it is not known when or whether at all the leaders will join Rahul Gandhi.
The opposition, preparing to challenge the BJP in the 2024 national election, got a big boost when Nitish Kumar ditched the BJP last month and formed a new government with Tejashwi Yadav, Congress and other opposition parties.
Soon after, Nitish Kumar met with several opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, in Delhi. The Chief Minister, back in the opposition camp after five years, is also seen as a possible challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national stage.
Tejashwi Yadav, significantly, said Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav would meet with Congress president Sonia Gandhi soon for the sake of opposition unity.