Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha on Thursday caused a flutter by proposing that veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav be projected as the "chehra" (face) of the Grand Alliance in Bihar ahead of the assembly polls due later this year.
The suggestion made by Kushwaha, seconded by another alliance partner Mukesh Sahni, who heads Vikassheel Insaan Party, was being seen as a snub to the RJD, which leads the five-party formation and had recently declared Tejashwi Yadav as the Chief Ministerial candidate without taking allies into confidence.
"Sharad Yadav is a highly respected leader. Grand Alliance has been plagued by a leadership crisis in the absence of Lalu (jailed RJD supremo). It would be beneficial for all if Sharad ji is projected as the face of the coalition", Kushwaha a former Union minister, who joined the anti-NDA grouping before the Lok Sabha elections last year said.
Sahni, a former Bollywood set designer, who is yet to make a mark electorally though perceived to be enjoying support of his sizeable Nishad community, echoed the sentiments expressed by Kushwaha.
"Sharad ji will be an ideal choice. He is already a well-known face and we all can benefit from his experiences", he said.
Yadav, who formerly headed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumars JD(U) and has been in the political wilderness after having been forced to part ways, appeared to be enjoying the sudden limelight.
"I am always happy to offer my services and carry out whatever responsibilities I am assigned", said the former Madhepura MP, who has since floated his own outfit Loktantrik Janata Dal comprising, mostly, JD(U) rebels, but had to suffer the ignominy of unsuccessfully contesting the last Lok Sabha polls on an RJD ticket.
RJD leaders were bemused by the development. While its national spokesman and Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha asserted "there is no alternative to Tejashwi", the partys veteran national vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said leader of opposition is an obvious choice for chief minister.
He qualified the statement with the observation "Sharad Yadav is a national leader. He cannot be confined to a state- specific role".
The Congress, the second largest Grand Alliance constituent after RJD, asserted that any decision on leadership must be taken after consultations with all the coalition partners.
"The question of leadership shall be decided jointly by all Grand Alliance constituents at an appropriate time. People are free to express individual opinions until then, though", BPCC spokesman Rajesh Rathore said.
The episode was yet another indication of the turmoil prevailing in the oppisition grouping which has been struggling to pick up its threads after suffering decimation in the general elections last year.
Lack of trust in young Tejashwi Yadavs ability to steer the coalition has grown in the aftermath of the RJD drawing a blank in the Lok Sabha polls, which was the first occasion for the party to face an election without its charismatic founding president leading from the front.
Founded by Prasad in 1997, the once mighty RJD is now a pale shadow of its earlier self and matters have been made worse by the infighting in his family which controls the party. His three children active in politics Tejashwi, Tej Pratap and Misa Bharti are not known to be on the best of terms.
Yet another problem has been tantrums thrown by mercurial allies like former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who heads the Hindustani Awam Morcha and keeps issuing threats of exit from the Grand Alliance.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)