Laloo’s Bihar

On 3.5.2004, I was watching the opinion poll on Election 2004 on the tube. However, the programme wasn’t interesting enough to keep me from retiring for the night. I was about to turn off the TV and call it a day when the anchor announced the next programme was “A day with Laloo”. The announcement forced me to reprogram my “biological clock”. I usually hit the sack by 9.30 in the night. But, for once, sleep has to wait. It has been interesting to observe the political situation in Bihar as a case study. Why is Laloo the “hero number one” of Bihar? The undisputed numero uno. Single-handedly, he is running his ruling party for a record number of years. It was evident as I watched the programme that there were moments when Mr. Laloo Yadav got very annoyed with all the “negative questions” (read embarrassing questions) being asked by the reporter. In fact, at times, Mr. Yadav seemed so downright angry that there was every likelihood that the reporter will be being tossed out of the helicopter in which they were travelling! However, I guess, the reporter had lady luck on his side. In my opinion, the positive aspect of the story was Mr. Laloo Yadav’s wife – Rabri Devi. For the benefit of those who are not aware, she also happens to be the Chief Minister of Bihar. However, to be fair to her, I was thoroughly impressed by the way in which the CM treated the reporter at her residence. Rabri Devi is a totally transformed lady. It is evident that power has actually brought about a positive change in Rabri Devi. She offered the reporter as well as Laloo some snacks herself. Biharis, in general, may be looked upon as a hostile and a crass lot. But when it comes to it, their hospitality is unparalleled. At the CM’s residence, the reporter also went to Mr. Laloo Yadav’s cowshed. He has, perhaps, 100 plus cows of good breed. He looks more of a BJP man when you see him with his cows. It may be shocking for urban intellectuals that a CM’s house and its adjoining land are used as farm and dairy. Strangely, the reporter never bothered to ask what happens with all the milk produced in the residential cowshed. How is it consumed? Is it sold in open market? What happens to the revenue generated from the sale of milk? Does it go to personal account of CM or some trust?

For all the questions about the poor condition of Bihar, Laloo had the usual answers: “NDA is biased against Bihar”; “All the negative stories are conspiracies against him”; “Biharis are self-respecting people”. The reporter, to be fair to him, addressed Mr. Yadav as a “jester” in an apparent reference to his mind-numbing answers and his never ending antics in general. Thankfully, the reporter’s caustic remarks did not provoke Mr. Yadav at all. In fact, Laloo Yadav himself has been coming out with “witty and humorous” slogans for which he is famous. For example, the one about mixing aloe, bail, and his name. Why is lily Yadav not serious about answering questions about general development – rather the lack of it – in Bihar? Can he not do something in that regard? But wait a second! To some extent, Laloo’s cowshed itself gives the answer regarding what he could have done for the people of Bihar. He inherits the knowledge of cows and other milk producing cattle. Laloo’s or Rabri’s government could have encouraged dairy industry in a big way as it was done in Gujarat. The conditions in many villages and of many families would have improved with the additional earning from milk production. This would have enabled his community and the people backing him to live a better life. He could have certainly changed the face of Bihar with his own innovative contribution with large scale animal husbandry projects for the rural employment. He could have brought a “white revolution” (pun intended) or “milk revolution” (take your pick) in Bihar. And all this could have been done without much help from the central government. He very much understands the need of the people.

Laloo’s speech accompanying his EVM course was full of gestures and dialogues that befits a jester. But people attending the rally were happy and excited. They were happy simply to be so close to Laloo. They do not expect more. Most of the reporters do not understand what he speaks in Bhojpuri, the language that he speaks proficiently. As reported in The Hindu, in one of the rally he said, “Lathi Utthavan, Tel Pilaavan, Baajpa bhaghaavan”. Translated in english, it literally means – Take your lathis, oil them well and chase the BJP out of Bihar. In my opinion, it is highly explosive and provocative slogan. It is a cry of war against a rival party. But no one can stop him. He has mesmerized a large group of the population. He has become more stronger with Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan coming under his fold. How long the duo will go on playing with the sentiments of the people of Bihar? How long the intelligentsia will tolerate this? How long the younger generation of Biharis will go on migrating from Bihar because of the fault of their leaders? How many years of opportunity for development will be lost for a state with a great past and potential? The questions keep piling. Hopefully, someday soon, a son of Bihar will come out with the answers to these tough questions and lead Bihar out from today’s state of hopelessness and despair.

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