Formerly an employee of a multinational corporation, Sanjay Yadav is now a poll strategist for the Rashtriya Janta Dal, or RJD. He is also a political advisor to its vice president, Tejashwi Yadav, the son of veteran politician Lalu Prasad Yadav. Sanjay, who grew up in Haryana’s Mahendragarh district, met Tejashwi in 2012, and became his advisor soon after. He is widely credited with the RJD’s performance in the assembly election in Bihar in 2015—after having won 22 seats in the 2010 election, the RJD won in 80 seats in 2015, emerging as the single largest party in Bihar. He was also involved in designing the campaign for the recent mahagatbandhan, or grand alliance in the state, ahead of the general elections. The alliance includes the Congress and the RJD, among other parties in Bihar.
Sagar, a staff writer at The Caravan, interviewed Sanjay about his work with the RJD and the party’s strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. Sanjay said he realised early in his life that “politics is the only solution” for any of society’s problems. “Even when one has to get a naala”—drain—“built in one’s area, one has to approach a politician.” Sanjay also discussed the RJD’s recent stances on reservation—during visits to different parts of the state, Tejashwi has demanded that 90 percent of government jobs be reserved; the RJD opposed the manner in which the union government recently implemented 10-percent reservation for economically weaker sections excluding the reserved category; and the party has promised that, if elected, it will ensure reservation in proportion to the population of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Class communities. Sanjay further spoke about the RJD’s approach to seat-sharing in Bihar and how it plans to counter the BJP’s attempts to attract OBC voters.
Sagar: How did you become a poll strategist for the RJD?
Sanjay Yadav: When [Tejashwi Yadav] was playing cricket, I was working in an MNC [the RJD politician was formerly a cricketer]. We met a couple of times through mutual friends. After the meetings, we decided that he will give up cricket and get into politics full-fledged and simultaneously, he asked me to quit my job and join the party, in 2012. When we started interacting, there was no website of RJD, forget about getting experts for social media. We got the RJD website done; Tejashwi and I became active on Facebook and Twitter. Later on, Laluji came on Twitter. We collectively started revamping the party, learning, growing and devising strategies with the grass-roots and the youth cadre of the RJD. I have been instrumental in [Tejashwi’s] political programming orientation, placing and positioning.
S: What is your election strategy for the 2019 general elections? Tell us about the party’s machinery that will be responsible for implementing it.
SY: Our poll strategy is to pit the Narendra Modi of 2014 against the Narendra Modi of 2019. In 2014, with no experience of delivering or working at the centre, he was almost an unknown entity except for [the 2002] Godhra riots. The Narendra Modi of 2014 was full of dreams and tall promises, which the nation saw that he failed miserably to live up to. As a result, people suffered badly. In 2019, we know that the Gujarat model was nothing but a castle of sand created on a base of lies, half-truths and animosity by the state—against a minority, in the minds of the majority. But having said that, it doesn’t mean that opposition has no novelty to offer in this election. While [the BJP] is saying that there is no alternative, we have a long track record to prove that the nation was a steady ship till 2014, growing briskly and harmoniously.
As far as our machinery is concerned, we don’t have unlimited resources or access to huge funds, like the NDA [the National Democratic Alliance], to have a glitzy and glamorous campaign. But we have an ideology that positively impacts the daily life of our citizens. We have dedicated party-men who are equipped enough to have small, but well knit teams at the local level to work as an effective counter against BJP’s IT cells or paid workers-cum-professionals. We meet our dedicated cadres on a regular basis and provide them with inputs.
S: Unlike in the past, when the RJD was seen as a party of the Yadavs and Muslims, it now appears to be pitching itself as a Bahujan party with an agenda to demolish not just the BJP but also Manuvad, the ideology of the Manusmriti—or so its Twitter handle suggests. What is the thinking behind this? What is the party hoping to gain?
SY: The Rashtriya Janata Dal was never a party of just Muslims or Yadavs. Confining RJD to M–Y [Muslims and Yadavs] is the negative propaganda of BJP to keep other social groups away from us. We always had a strong voter base with people from all sections [of society]. As long as we were in power, we easily commanded around 40–45 percent of the votes, which is not possible only with Yadav or Muslims as only voters. RJD is not a party of M–Y but A to Z. Recently, due to the 10-percent reservations and 13-point roster issue, [a new method to appoint teaching faculty in central and state colleges, which will significantly reduce seats for candidates from reserved categories], we had to become more vocal for the interests of the SC, ST and OBCs and had to get our act together in order to safeguard the future of the most downtrodden and weaker sections of the society. We do the politics of the people who had no voice or representation in the country for ages. We don’t do the politics of the strong, the well-resourced and over-represented.