The Rashtriya Janata Dal on Friday observed its foundation day in Patna with its jailed and ailing founding president Lalu Prasad Yadav away in Ranchi and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav refusing to attend the programme.
It could be an indication that all is not well with the party that had ruled Bihar for more than a decade and still has the largest number of members in the state assembly.
The celebrations took place at the RJD state headquarters here, but many workers were unhappy as they had hoped that bail would be granted to Lalu Yadav on this very day when the outfit was floated in 1997.
Ho sakta hai BJP humare chacha(Nitish Kumar) ko last mein aakar dump kar de, aur Lok Sabha ka chunav aur Bihar ka chunav ek samay pe ho jaye, toh taiyaar rahiye: Tejashwi Yadav to party workers on RJD's foundation day event pic.twitter.com/kPR5G701EJ— ANI (@ANI) July 5, 2018
After the news spread that hearing on the bail plea of the RJD chief, serving sentences in a number of fodder scam cases, has been deferred by the Jharkhand High Court, party functionaries began to soldier on with the preparations.
They, however, got perked up with the arrival of Lalu Yadav's wife Rabri Devi who had succeeded her husband as the chief minister and served a tenure longer than that of him.
Other senior leaders of the party such as national vice-presidents Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Shivanand Tiwary, national general secretary Alok Mehta and state president Ram Chandra Purbe also reached the Birchand Patel party office where a cake was brought to celebrate the foundation day.
However, neither of Lau Yadav's two sons -- Tejashwi and his elder brother Tej Pratap -- reached the venue by the time the celebrations were scheduled to begin. An apparently miffed Rabri Devi kicked off the ceremony with lighting of lamps.
Speaking at the RJD foundation day programme in Patna, Tej Pratap Yadav said, "Please get aside & let women come forward. If women have to progress, they have to be in front. Wherever my program is held, I make women sit in the front, like my father used to do."
#WATCH Tej Pratap Yadav at RJD foundation day programme in Patna: Please get aside & let women come forward. If women have to progress, they have to be in front. Wherever my program is held, I make women sit in the front, like my father used to do. (05.07.2019) pic.twitter.com/JW7t28XDyu— ANI (@ANI) July 6, 2019
In the meantime, Tej Pratap arrived amid shouts of "zindabad" from enthusiastic party supporters. The maverick RJD MLA who had his hair tied in a bun like his favourite deity Lord Shiva, went into the room that his father used to occupy and took his seat.
He arrived at the podium erected for the function only after being cajoled by party workers who were, apparently, told to do so by the party's top brass.
Several phone calls were said to have been made to Tejashwi Yadav, who is currently the Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly and has been named as the RJD's chief ministerial candidate for the assembly polls due next year.
RJD leaders remained tight-lipped over Tejashwi's absence, though sources said he has been cross with his elder brother's waywardness during the Lok Sabha polls in which the party has put up its worst ever performance, drawing a blank.
During the elections, Tej Pratap - miffed over being sidelined in the party by his younger brother - had floated a parallel outfit and people close to him had contested as rebel candidates in a number of constituencies.
Addressing the function, senior leader Tiwary took exception to the petulance displayed by Tejashwi whom he did not mention by name.
"You cannot run away from the people just because of a single defeat. The people want you to become the next chief minister. You must learn from your father and fight back," Tiwary said.
Tejashwi, who had led the party campaign in the general elections, had remained away from Bihar for more than a month after the Lok Sabha poll results were announced.
Last week, he clarified in a written statement that he was in Delhi recuperating from a surgery he had undergone for a ligament injury which he had left untreated on account of the engagements during the polls.
He returned to Patna on Monday, but skipped the monsoon session of the assembly for three days before making a brief appearance on Thursday.
At the assembly premises, the media savvy leader had declined to take questions from journalists saying he would be speaking at the foundation day, where he did not turn up.
In their speeches Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Rabri Devi also exhorted the party cadres to brace for fight to revive the RJDs fortunes.
Tej Pratap Yadav, who often compares his younger brother to Arjuna and himself to Lord Krishna, said "Whoever comes between me and my brother will be slain with the Sudarshan Chakra."
Watch | I am the second Lalu Yadav in Bihar: Tej Pratap