Sons in Bihar cabinet, daughters married to Mulayam parents – Lalu’s sprawling family tree spans party lines

Patna: At a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) rally in the 1990s, when Lalu Prasad Yadav was Chief Minister of Bihar, enthusiastic supporters put up billboards in Patna declaring his then teenage sons – Tej Pratap and Tejashwi-“Yuwao ke Yuvraj (prince of young people)”. The decision was not well received by Lalu, who said: “My sons do not play politics and I will punish those who put up these billboards”.

Some three decades later, the RJD president’s younger son, Tejashwi Yadav, is the deputy CM of Bihar, while the eldest, Tej Pratap Yadav, is the minister of environment, forests and climate change. His eldest daughter Misa Bharti is an MP for Rajya Sabha, and his wife and former CM Rabri Devi is a member of the Bihar Legislative Council.

Indeed, Lalu had realized the importance of having family support in politics early in his career.

Towards the end of 2014, as Bihar CM Nitish Kumar began to show signs of disagreeing with Jitan Ram Manjhi, a man he had helped bring into the CM chair a few months earlier, Lalu commented with an amused look on his face. “You see, people criticized me because I made my wife the CM,” the RJD leader said in a reference to Rabri Devi being sworn in as CM when he was forced to resign in 1997 after an arrest warrant was issued against him in the fodder scam case.

Last week, as the RJD chief’s eldest son-in-law – Misa Bharti’s husband, Shailesh Kumar, a computer engineer who also holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad – drew attention of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for accompanying Tej Pratap to his official meetings.

Former Minister of Bihar BJP Janak Ram had said that there is a tradition of ‘jija-sala’ (brothers-in-law) reign in the RJD, reminiscent of the “extra-constitutional” powers once wielded by Rabri Devi’s brothers, Sadhu and Subhash Yadav.

The Yadav family have been movers and shakers in Bihar politics for over three decades now, and are linked to the politically influential Yadav families of UP and Haryana across party lines through connections matrimonial.

The Bihar political patriarch and his wife have seven daughters and two sons. A look at their political presence.

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Misa Bharti: The eldest daughter of Lalu and Rabri is appointed after the 1971 Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), under which the head of the RJD has already been imprisoned.

Misa obtained her MBBS from Patna Medical College and Hospital. Her political initiation began in 2014, when she disputed Pataliputra’s Lok Sabha polls but lost. She again lost the 2019 legislative elections from the same seat. Misa is currently serving her second term as a member of Rajya Sabha.

In 1999 she married Shailesh Kumar who now has her own business. The couple is accused in a money laundering case.

Rohini Acharya: Lalu’s second daughter was given her middle name, Acharya, after the doctor who helped deliver her, RJD sources say. She too has completed her MBBS and is married to software engineer Rao Samresh Singh. The couple is based in Singapore.

So far, Rohini’s political activities have been limited to his social media posts. She is known to tweet often in Support members of his family and versus the BJP.

Chanda Yadav: Lalu’s third daughter is a law graduate, who is married to pilot Vikram Singh. She has, so far, kept a low profile and was mostly seen only at family functions.

Ragini Yadav: Former CMs of Bihar Fourth his daughter, an engineer dropout, is married to former Samajwadi party MP Rahul Yadav. He is a distant relative of Samajwadi party patriarch, Mulayam Singh Yadav.

According to the affidavit submitted by Rahul ahead of the 2022 elections in Uttar Pradesh, he is a businessman with assets worth Rs 100 crore.

Hema Yadav: The fifth daughter of Lalu and Rabri is a engineer by qualification, married to Delhi-based businessman Vineet Yadav. Vineet is also known to dabble in politics and is associated with the Samajwadi party. Last month, Hema’s name arose in the “land for employment” scam being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It was alleged that she received land worth Rs 61 lakh from a railway employee.

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Anushka aka Dhannu: Sixth daughter from former Bihar CM has completed an interior design course and is married to the son of former Haryana Congress Minister Ajay Singh Yadav, Chiranjeev. Like his father, Chiranjeev is also involved in politics. So far, Anushka’s political activities have been limited to campaigning for her family members.

Tej Pratap Yadav: The eldest of the two sons often left his family with a red face. The Minister of Bihar is a college dropout. According to JD(U) sources, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar helped get him admitted to a pilot training course, but he did not complete it either. His election affidavits only mention that he completed senior high school.

He became a deputy for the first time in 2015, and was made Bihar health Minister in 2017.

Tej Pratap married Aishwarya Rai, granddaughter of the late Bihar CM Daroga Prasad Rai, in May 2018. There was talk about divorce within months, leading to strained relations with his family. Ahead of the 2019 general election, it appealed people not to vote for his father-in-law Chandrika Rai after receiving an RJD ticket.

Upset that his helpers weren’t getting tickets, he also had taken a beating to his younger brother Tejashwi in public before this election.

Tej Pratap, however, seems to have mellowed over time. He was appointed Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in the Grand Alliance government.

Tejashwi Yadav: The eighth among the Yadav siblings, Tejashwi, over the years became the son of Lalu political heir.

CM MP Bihar’s first love was cricket. Tejashwi was Delhi Daredevil team member of the Indian Premier League (IPL), although he remained the 12th man.

When his cricket career failed to take off, he was introduced into politics by Lalu in 2009. Tejashwi spent time observing his father at public meetings and learning from him, before jump into the polls fray in 2015. He became the Deputy CM in the Nitish Kumar government, as part of the then Grand Alliance.

It was in 2018, however, when Lalu was imprisoned in the fodder scam he had to take responsibility for the party.

The initial performance was disastrous. The RJD lack to win a single seat under him in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. A frustrated Tejashwi left Patna for Delhi, not even bothering to attend the Bihar assembly in which he was the leader of the opposition.

It managed to turn around in the 2020 elections in Bihar, nearly defeating the JDU-BJP combination by securing 111 seats, but was knocked down by the poor performance of the Congress.

In the current alliance with the JD(U), it has 79 MPs and the strong support of MPs from the left and Congress. Political watchers believe he is set to be Bihar’s next chief minister – the youngest at 35 if he does in 2024.

Last year, he married his longtime friend Rachel Godinho in an intimate ceremony. She is now known as Rajshri Yadav.

While some in political circles had speculated about the detrimental effect of marriage outside Yadav’s caste on his career, RJD leaders had refuted such possibilities.

Raj Laxmi Yadav: The youngest of the Yadav siblings, Raj Laxmi was born after Lalu became Bihar CM in 1990. A picture of Lalu holding Raj Laxmi in his arms, awaiting his turn for a medical check-up went viral in the early 1990s .

She married Mulyam Singh Yadav’s great-nephew Tej Pratap Singh Yadav at a high-profile ceremony in Delhi in 2015 attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

(Editing by Poulomi Banerjee)

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