Lalu Prasad Yadav, the man who gave altogether a different definition to eccentricity in public life, besides his eventful political career would be also remembered for long time for making Biharis take pride in impulsive and totally unsafe kind of mannerism. The former Bihar Chief Minister admired even among bitter political rivals for his charismatic and mass appeal (had) has his trump card rested on being a parochial casteist leader with a slogan promising a new day to his underdog Bihari voters.
“Bihar can be bifurcated only on my dead body,” was such an example of rhetoric mannerism when he wanted to oppose carving out of Jharkhand state.
His face had an impression of an extra-ordinary rustic look suiting his image and his political constituency. In rest of India or in big cities, while people of all political hues struggled to present themselves as sophisticated and intelligent, Lalu preferred to play a “gaon ke bekoof (rustic buffoon)” promising to even “make Bihar roads shine like actress Hemamalini’s cheeks”.
Paradoxically, he did not earn ridicule for the sexist remark but rather attracted applause.
Instead Lalu’s mannerism and inherent acceptance it had from the crowd only leads one to ponder - which one is more ridiculous: to appear a fool or to pretend to be smart!
A host of internet jokes surfaced on him involving global personalities like US President Bill Clinton and Pervez Musharraf.
Character actor Paresh Rawal has already acted in a film emulating Lalu while another film starring Sunil Shetty has been named after him. Prakash Jha-made ‘Gangajal’ shows politically-motivated violence under his rule and ironically the negative protagonist of the film is named after his brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav.
Born on June 1, 1973, Lalu married Rabri Devi, whom he selfishly imposed as Bihar’s Chief Minister once he was named in the fodder scam and the CBI investigations intensified. Father of two sons and seven daughters, he even made his large family a platform to make frontal attack on Indira Gandhi’s forced sterilization programme during the emergency. He named his eldest daughter Misa Bharati after the infamous Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) enacted during emergency between 1975-77.
He had been also alleged to be so much blinded by greed for holding onto power that he turned blind to reasons and the sentiments of those who should have mattered to him. It took him no time to split Janata Dal when the party favoured his resignation following the fodder scam investigation revelations. He floated RJD anointing himself as its president and made his wife, till then a shy housewife and a semi-literate as Bihar’s chief minister.
In fact, 15 long years from 1990 to 2005 - Bihar’s story has been the story of Lalu’s his love affair with the seat of power of the strife-torn state. For Lalu Prasad Yadav, the state has been his fiefdom – a land where he is alleged to have been presiding over and also inflicting anarchies but he did not want to give up the power. Voted out of power in a fractured mandate in February 2005 assembly polls, he forced UPA regime to deny opportunities to rival parties to take over. Manmohan Singh government’s decision to impose President’s Rule came in for severe criticism by the Supreme Court and its own minister Ram Vilas Paswan took up the cudgels against government’s move.
In the subsequent November 2005 polls, Lalu and Rabri Devi were faced in catch22 situation: can the rendezvous with destiny be postponed indefinitely.
He saw the writing on the wall as the state seemed slipping out of his grip.
In the run up to the polls, voters realized one thing that Lalu’s ‘jalwa’ (magic) was missing.
But Lalu is a person who won’t give up easily and therefore as a strategist to turn disadvantages to advantage, he has made an all out attempt to present himself an innovative administrator. Dubbed as the country’s foremost white elephant, he left nothing to chance to take the credit for bringing about the
financial turnaround of Railways, a portfolio he had reluctantly accepted after Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh denied him home portfolio.
But he has been making news also for wrong reasons in railways. Firstly, he mad a hyped campaign on ‘kulhad’ (earthen tea pot). He also booked railway officials either for mishaving with RJD MPs or not for providing a good service during his trips.
He also used his Railway portfolio and ordered a probe on Godhra train carnage only to be ridiculed by the BJP and his bete noire in Bihar politics Nitish Kumar, the former Railway Minister and the incumbent Chief Minister of Bihar who outwitted Lalu in the backyard of his fiefdom.
Nevertheless, he got a best weapon now to claim about his administrative ability and thus he challenged that he can bring results in any other Ministry. The statement again sounds buffonery but such reasoning of wisdom could be only a metropolitan myth as ordinary Indians do think that Lalu singularly deserves kudos for turning the fortunes of Indian railways.
This profit of Rs 90,000 crore for railways was subsequently challenged by his immediate successor Ms Mamata Banerjee, who implied that the figures were fudged by Lalu.
In the ultimate analysis, only time will tell whether his tales of mannerism and caste idiom politics sprinkled generously with the stance of Muslim appeasement will help future historians to pen a compendium as a political obit or a victory tale of a folk hero.