Lalu’s reign in Bihar has finally ended. It took 15 years – just 5 years lesser than Lalu Prasad Yadav’s own prophesy that he would rule no less than 20 years – to oust him from the seat of power in Bihar. But these 15 years seemed like eternity to not only Biharis but even to the rest of the country that was frustrated by the way Bihar was run during the period.
Charisma of Lalu: Lalu Prasad Yadav came to power in 1990 as an iconic figure of the masses of the ‘oppressed’ that typically mean the backward castes. Then in 1995, the Lalu’s Janata Dal split and he went on to re-christen the name of his party to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) with a hurricane lantern as its symbol, and like a hurricane, he swept the polls with an unprecedented mandate and wrested the Bihar assembly with 2/3 majority routing the then main rival Anand Mohan’s Bihar People’s Party that could manage only a solitary seat. But soon power went into the head of his party men.
Making of a Scamster: The enormity of the notorious animal husbandry and fodder scam started surfacing and Lalu started getting entangled. The scam is the biggest in the history of free India even now. Enquiries revealed that billions of dollars were misappropriated for the Animal Husbandry and Fodder department that was being aided by the World Bank and Lalu played an active part in letting this happen. It wasn’t that it was Lalu who started this scam. Previous Congress governments actually started looting the department, Lalu seemed to have just perfected it. However, this time there was no way to escape and he was arrested and spent a few months in jail before he got out on bail.
The Astute Politician: Now that he couldn’t run the state from prison, he did the next best thing. He put his wife, the barely literate Rabri Devi, in the Chief Minister’s seat while retaining the post of the Party President and ruled the state through proxy. Nepotism flourished under his rule where his three brothers-in-law were made ministers. All three of them had serious criminal charges against them during that time from murder to kidnapping to extortion. They were the henchmen who terrorized people into submission and made the party a sort of family and caste fiefdom. The worst case perhaps that Lalu personally was charged with was that of the rape of an IAS officer’s wife Champa Biswas for years from which Lalu came out clean though the stigma remained with him forever.
The Beginning of an End: The 3rd term of Lalu’s reign saw his grip over both his vote vank and his men going down substantially. From a party with iron-grip over the Bihar electorate, RJD failed to get even a simple majority. He had to rely on the support of independent candidates almost all of whom were hardcore criminals and notorious history-sheeters like Suraj Bhan Singh. Even Lalu’s RJD was full of history-sheeters like Shahabuddin, Pappu Yadav etc. Bihar’s already pathetic state of affairs dwindled even further and crime soared like never before. Kidnapping became an industry where people from all walks of life got affected. Doctors, businessmen, school students, government officials etc were kidnapped. This became almost an everyday routine and Bihar plunged into total chaos and anarchy.
Law & Order Pushed to the Brink: By now, there was hardly anything left in the name of law and order and criminals ruled the roost in Bihar’s everyday life. Development became an alien word in the state. Businessmen started folding their businesses along with intellectuals and started moving out of the state. And thus, Bihar became the last choice of Indians to reside in, let alone do business. It was then that the Patna High Court started issuing orders to the state executive on governance. It seemed that the High Court judges ran Bihar and not the elected government.
The Great Paswan Shocker: In this backdrop, Bihar went to polls in February. This time Lalu’s rivals had a lot of ammunition in their armoury. However, erstwhile partner-turned-foe Ram Vilas Paswan emerged as a major power who was not willing to side with the RJD-led UPA camp or the JD(U)-led NDA in the Bihar elections and fought alone. The result was a fractured mandate and no one got majority to form a government. Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) with 29 seats suddenly found itself as the most sought-after party in the game of horse-trading in the post-poll situation. But Paswan would have none of it. In the process, he made a blunder by declaring that he would support any party that chooses a Muslim as the Chief Minister of Bihar. Alas! There was none that fit his bill, be it in the RJD camp or JD(U) camp.
Politicking to the Hilt: In fact no one was willing to give in to such an outrageous demand where big political players had much in stake. Then just as NDA seemed to have engineered a split in LJP and stake claim to form the government after much horse-trading, the UPA government in the Centre wary of the Saffron Brigade to be in power in Bihar, imposed President’s Rule. Fresh elections were held and today Lalu’s RJD and Paswan’s LJP ended up looking as sorry figures after being virtually routed by NDA.
Brighter Tomorrow Awaits Bihar? The winds of change have blown in Bihar. There is every reason to hope that Bihar comes out of the quagmire that it has been since long into. Now it is up to the new leadership to make sure that it does justice to the faith of the people who voted them into power. As far as Lalu is concerned, it seems to be the end of days for the man who once chose to declare – “Jab tak rahega samosey mein aloo, Bihar me raj karega Lalu” (Just as a samosa can’t be imagined sans potato, similarly power corridors of Bihar can’t be without the phenomenon called Lalu).