Meet Tejashwi’s ‘Bhai’ Who Pulled Him Out of Lalu’s Shadows

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In October 2013 when 23-year-old Tejashwi Yadav realised his cricketing career had reached a roadblock and decided to move to Bihar to begin his political inning, he got his trusted friend and companion along with him to the state. Tejashwi had then introduced Sanjay Yadav, who is just 5 years elder to him, to his father as, “Bade bhai hain, ab hum saath mein kaam karenge (He is my elder brother, now we will be working together).”

Thirty-six-year-old Sanjay soon became a family insider. A man of few words with an ear to the ground and sharp political understanding went on to win the trust of the old war horse, Lalu Yadav. The last time Sanjay met the RJD patron was in the Ranchi jail in the month of June to discuss alliance modalities and candidate selection.

In an exclusive conversation with News18, he said, “It’s difficult to convince a veteran who has fought more elections than my age if you don’t have proper data on social combinations and changed realities from what it was several years ago. But Laluji was receptive; he told us (Tejashwi and him), ‘Ab tum log jano, lekin jeet jayenge na (It’s up to you, but will we win)?’” Sanjay’s one-line response was, “Nishchint rahiye (Don’t worry).”

Sanjay Yadav studied at a Hindi-medium village school in Nangal Sirohi in Mahendragarh district of Haryana. The only son of a subedar father, Sanjay comes from a modest family. “Being an outsider in the RJD and Bihar, my affiliation is only to the leader; no affinity, no favouritism,” he told News18.

An MBA graduate and a team manager at an IT firm in Gurugram till 2013, this Yadav introduced the RJD to the world of information technology and social media, emphasised on executing the reservation for EBCs and SC/STs in party organisation, thereby making the RJD the first party in the country to implement reservation in organisational posts.

From chalking out strategies to creating the party’s website to ensuring a strong presence on digital platforms to deciding and decoding Tejashwi Yadav’s position and stance on all major issues in the last few years — Sanjay has been the man behind the leader. He is serving as political advisor to Tejashwi and had been instrumental during his brief 18-month successful tenure as deputy CM. The well-thought decision to offer an apology and go without the images of his CM parents on posters was Tejashwi Yadav’s, but the seeds were sown by Sanjay.

“It was about the political transition and to make it smooth and showcase the emergence of a second-line leadership. Rehnumai Lalu ki, aguwai Tejashwi ki (The guidance was Lalu’s and at the forefront was Tejashwi),” he said.

The big turning point came in adversity. On July 26, 2017, Nitish Kumar walked out of the alliance with the RJD. The same evening Lalu Yadav had to head Ranchi for his court appearance. Tejashwi protested at Raj Bhavan; the separation played out on the streets of Bihar. “4 saal mein 4 sarkar (four years and four governments), CM Nitish Kumar,” Tejashwi’s speech in the state assembly as the leader of opposition and his tactical positioning as someone who has a different view than his father’s and has envisaged a different vision for the RJD than Lalu was noted.

The well-researched idea of providing 10 lakh jobs which will be signed off with the “first stroke of the pen in the very first cabinet meeting” was the brainchild of Sanjay. The tagline (“Nitish Kumar thak gaye hain (Nitish Kumar is tired))”, that worked like a spell against Nitish Kumar was also coined by this Yadav from Haryana. The tagline was repeated in every rally by Tejashwi Yadav, portraying the image of a worn-out politician who has no vision for the state.

The plans and the noise around Tejashwi being a lone campaigner, hovering around in his chopper against dozens of NDA choppers, setting a record of 19 rallies in a single day and on an average addressing 12.5 rallies per day was also orchestrated and ensured by Sanjay. In the entire election campaign, he confined himself to the office, didn’t accompany Tejashwi, but in real-time monitored his position, cross-checking dos and don’ts, observing crowds’ response, behaviour and pattern through an associate who used to accompany Tejashwi and sending rally videos and interactions with random attendees, which helped him gauge the behaviour and temperament of the voters and campaigning.

Sanjay and Tejashwi also got together in driving home the fact there is an accepted generation gap between the young leader and his father. And that the regime will not work on the old principles of the party.

A list of 100 weak and strong booths each in every constituency was charted through data evaluation. Candidates were given a list of 100 weak booths with social composition months prior to the elections. Five youth per booth, who don’t belong to either Muslim or Yadav community, were selected through a special low-profile non-political campaign .

Summing up his equation with Tejashwi, who emerged as the net gainer in Bihar polls, Sanjay Yadav told News18, “There is trust in the leadership and I find Tejashwi a good student of politics and a quick learner. Ours has been a relationship with deep-rooted trust that we want to enforce with conviction.”

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