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Rediff.com  » Election » Lalu talks of N-power & MIT, yet focus still on caste

Lalu talks of N-power & MIT, yet focus still on caste

April 13, 2009 09:00 IST

Lalu Prasad Yadav, who believed 'samikaran' (caste equations), and not development, brings vote -- is talking about nuclear power to villagers: "We have signed the nuclear deal. Through uranium we will make electricity. Do you know what that means? Electricity for your children."

This Lalu Prasad also talks about industries and jobs. "See, what I have done with the Railways in Bihar. Without rail there can't be any industry. I am setting up a wheel factory in Chhapra. There will be ancillary industries also. Apart from direct jobs, local people will get indirect employment, too. This area will become an industrial hub. Koi mai ka lal mujhe rok na saka (Nobody could stop me)," he thunders.

This Lalu Prasad, the Railway minister, also mentions "Harvard" and "MIT" to the rural crowd. "I have gone to Harvard. Educated children know what Harvard is. I have gone to MIT, Singapore College. I have taught teachers all over the world," he says, as a crowd dominated by the Yadav caste looks at him with awe and amusement.

In private conversation with select media persons, Prasad tries to look supremely confident. He claims, "The Congress will not win a single seat. Even Sadhu Yadav will lose and I am not taking him back in my party. I can't see where Nitish (Kumar) -- the Bihar chief minister -- is winning either. Congress candidates will cut votes in our favour."

Publicly, Prasad is concentrating more on hailing his achievements and caste equations than attacking other political parties. At the school ground in Parsa village, he especially offers his 'pranaam' (respect) to the local Vaishya community and a large part of his speech is dedicated to the description of his alliance with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lok Janshakti Party boss Ram Vilas Paswan.

His dependence on this caste-based alliance is so much that all posters of the RJD contain faces of these partners. And the man, whose bungalow in Delhi mentions just "Shri Lalu Prasad" is careful enough to add the "Yadav" in the banners on the dais.

The man, who initially refused to give Paswan more than eight seats, now says their alliance was essential.

"From Kisanganj to Delhi, there are 134 Lok Sabha seats. These seats will decide the fate of this country. In 2004, Ram Vilas and I were together. But then we parted ways and power went out of your hands. Whenever poor people's unity has broken, outsiders' rule prevailed."

On an average, Lalu Prasad is attending more than 10 rallies every day. Pitted against the tough challenge of Nitish Kumar, perceived widely as a "performing chief minister", Prasad is playing all his cards, including prime ministership.

"I want Manmohan Singh as the PM. But the situation is such that anyone can become the prime minister!" he says and slogans are raised immediately hailing Lalu Prasad as the PM.

Political analysts say Prasad's pet "Dahi Daari" (curd and beard signifying Yadavs and Muslims) vote bank is fast eroding. While the Yadavs are still in love with him, Muslims have already started looking for alternatives.

In Saran, one of the two seats where the Railway minister is contesting, he faces a tough challenge as the BSP has fielded Salim Parvez, who is expected to get a sizeable portion of Dalit and minority votes.

So, after bringing four railway factories in Bihar and talking about "no increase in rail fare, implementation of NREGA, roads, electricity, rail, airports", a "shaky" Lalu Prasad Yadav adds, "If I have done any mistake, pardon me. Even God makes mistakes."

His rustic humour is still intact in this difficult time of RJD.

"My younger brother Nitish wanted to bowl me out on zero. But I am hitting sixers. Cinemawala, cartoonists can't earn their breads without me. I had called up (Rajiv Pratap) Rudy recently. He told me Nitish was not giving him ticket. I asked him why are you contesting when you are sure to lose. He said, "Mein duniya mein munh dikha sakta hoon ki Laluji se hum hare (I can face the world and say that Lalu defeated me."

Everyone laughs and claps at these one-liners.

But in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the problem of the RJD supremo is that not many claps are heard when he talks about development issues!

Saubhadro Chatterji in Saran
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