On August 20, 2010, Lalu Prasad Yadav attained a new milestone. The illustrious former Bihar chief minister, once in the thick of fodder scam controversy, and more recently formally declared as the Chief Minister-In-Waiting by his alliance for Bihar polls, attained the position of Prime Minister of India, albeit in a mock session in the Lok Sabha after the lower House was adjourned for the day.
Immediately after the House was adjourned by the Deputy Speaker Mr Karia Munda in view of uproar created by opposition members from BJP, RJD and Samajwadi among others over salary hike demand and protest of passage of government legislations, the agitating opposition MPs led by Mr Lalu Prasad, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mr Gopinath Munde sat on the floor staging a dharna inside the well and staged a mock parliament.
BJP deputy leader became the Speaker while RJD chief Mr Prasad posed as the prime minister. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was given the task of ensuring smooth functioning of the mock session.
During the mock session, which was participated by around 70 MPs, 'debates' were held.
During the 'debate', Ms Maneka Gandhi (BJP) spoke even as her speech was cut short by the 'Speaker' Munde who asked her to wind up the speech owing to paucity of time.
Mr Prasad sporting the characteristic smile later said, "I was elected prime minister for today. We will see what is to be done tomorrow. I heard the views of the 'House' and the people's government decided to reject outright the bills cleared today".
Lalu Prasad’s RJD said even in December 2009 during the winter session of Parliament, the Manmohan Singh government had pushed for and passed five important bills and introduced two others amid the din. The bills passed included one on raising Salaries and Allowances of
Ministers and another providing for creation of commercial divisions of High Courts, they alleged.
Like many journalists of my time, the politics of Lalu Prasad Yadav always give a kick.
On October 10, 2005, Vijaya Dashami day I was in Patna to cover the Bihar assembly polls which ultimately ended Lalu Prasad’s 15-long years of fiefdom over the ill-managed state.
I had mailed to my former PTI colleague in Mumbai, Jaicinta D’Souza, now shifted to Bangalore, that even Dushera pandals in Patna smelled of politics and of course the caste game.
It was early morning by the time one started along the poorly maintained road in a haze of dusty wind. The houses were small and looked like shanties. So much of the evidence of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s work for the downtrodden that each shop and the house reflected a small victory for the human spirit that made man brave through the situation. It is also called survival.
But again, it was perhaps only a metropolitan myth that constitutional impropriety vis-à-vis dissolution of Bihar assembly was seen as main factors weighing against Lalu. Though my urbane political reading suggested that Bihar was slipping out of his grip, if the commoners in Patna, were any barometer, there was absolutely no wave either in favour of JD (U) Chief Ministerial candidate Nitish Kumar or against the Bihar’s uncrowned king for last 15 years.
They could shock a questioner on the pathetic conditions of the roads or power failure. “Why blame Lalu alone? It is a New Delhi conspiracy."
More than the issues of constitutional impropriety, the alleged abuse of power by the then Bihar Govenor Buta Singh and the Supreme Court ruling just a few weeks back against Centre for denying Nitish Kumar a chance to form government in early 2005, the common voters attached closer affinity to their castes and more mundane issues of roads, employment and power crisis.
The caste division was well reflected even among Muslims who are otherwise suppose to cherish the classless and casteless principles of Islam. “The mood of Muslim voters is vital in any election in Bihar. It is going to be all the more crucial this time. Lalu Yadav cannot count us any longer,” remarked my taxi driver. The Lalu yadav regime – either under him or under Rabri Devi - only helped out the case of “upper echelons” among Muslims. This is why JD (U) mascot Nitish Kumar is so sanguine about reservation for Dalit Muslims.
The mandate just within weeks proved him to be correct.
By the end of November 2005, there was no Lalu in Bihar samosa.
But Lalu continued as railway minister in the centre. But the real downslide journey came in 2009 Lok Sabha polls when his party could win only 4 seats --- including his and ironically three other MPs from upper caste. Lalu is shaken and this fear is gaining currency as heart-in-heart he knows Nitish Kumar can again prove himself a better mettle in the ensuing state assembly elections of 2010.
(More on his political career, anecdotes and the much popular humour dose in my next posting)