The Road Rarely Taken: Tejashwi Yadav’s Inter-faith Marriage In Times Of Religious Politics

Yadav did not feel the need to hide behind a facade and marry a woman of the same caste or even religion, or remain a bachelor for the lack of choice. All that is great, but then Rachel Godinho became Rajshree Yadav after marriage.

Tejashwi Yadav Rachel Godinho
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav with his wife Rachel Godinho feeds a cow, in Patna on December 14, 2021. (ANI Photo)

New Delhi: Indian leaders who want a successful political career are increasingly turning to religion in the present times. They showcase their beliefs in the Gods hoping it would make them seem as the best prospect to lead a state or the country itself. At the same time, communal tension is stoked, whereby anyone associated with or following any religion other than the majority’s may not stand a chance at success. So, when Congress leaders like Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, questioned for their upbringing by a Catholic mother, Sonia Gandhi, go on temple rounds, it should not surprise us. Instead, what does surprise us, is when leaders like Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Tejashwi Yadav marry their childhood friend (or sweetheart, one doesn’t know), who is a Christian.

That Yadav did not feel the need to hide behind a facade and marry a woman of the same caste or even religion, or remain a bachelor, seemingly for the lack of choice, is great. But as soon as a momentary hope, if one can call it that, for the future of politics and by that nature the country is sown, we also come to know that the newly married bride Rachel Godinho, soon after her marriage to Yadav in December 2021, changed her name to Rajshree Yadav.

But it wasn’t hidden that he married a Christian. Heck, every article on the marriage specified her religion. There also were tweets with disclaimers on the religion of the wife of Yadav junior, who is the heir to Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD. Rachel, or Rajshree as she and her new family would want her to be known, reportedly met Tejashwi when studying in school – DPS RK Puram, New Delhi. Tejashwi, according to his election affidavit studied till class 9.

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Immediately after their marriage, Tejashwi’s uncle Sadhu Yadav who had a falling out with the family stated to the media his displeasure, even going to the extent of calling the marriage demeaning to the image of Lalu Prasad’s family. Sadhu was not invited to the wedding – a case of sour grapes, let’s call his outburst.

Now, with the Bharatiya Janata Party having lost Bihar after Janata Dal (United) left their alliance – re-joining the Mahagathbandhan with the RJD and Congress – this little nugget of truth (the inter-faith marriage) will be used as cannon fodder either by the BJP’s transparent leaders themselves or their right-wing supporters. Christians, after all, while courted by the parties in states like Nagaland and Mizoram, are tagged as forced convertors in states like Jharkhand and Karnataka, or as practicing a religion of invaders – the British.

For now, Yadav will most probably remain Deputy CM at least until the next elections in Bihar in 2025. He stated after his oath taking ceremony, that he would use his office, to fight unemployment, poverty and promote communal harmony.

Others, unable to take the step of the freedom of choice that the country’s constitution gives, can borrow a little hope in Tejashwi’s decision. India’s preamble after all states: “JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship”.