I was in university when I got to know somebody called Lalu Yadav is in the race for chief ministership. He was being backed by the then strongman of Indian politics and self-proclaimed kingmaker, Devi Lal. Prime Minister V P Singh was not in his favour. His candidate was Ram Sunder Das, a Dalit leader. Nobody took him seriously then and nobody thought he will complete his tenure. But defying all logic and all political calculations, his government remained in power for another fifteen years. I am talking about the same Lalu Yadav, who last week presented the 6th Rail Budget in a row and supposed to be one of the pillars of Manmohan Singh government. In his Budget speech he was talking about bullet train and also how Railways became a profit-making enterprise.
He is the same Lalu Prasad who is credited for all the ills for which Bihar is known. Lalu was never taken seriously when he was the Chief Minister and even when his wife was CM. Forget about the English elite, even the urban middle-class detested him, and always made fun of him. And surprisingly he never tried to change his image, rather he loved being ridiculed and was never embarrassed about his earthiness. He enjoyed it, and within himself he loved every ridicule thrown at him and manipulated it to his advantage politically.
He was the leader who loved being photographed with buffaloes and called aeroplane udan khatola. For him, the upper caste were bhura bal, which needed to be shaved off. He was the antithesis of everything urban and sophisticated and polished. I had many encounters with him, few pleasant and few very unpleasant. Once he was so upset with my strong questioning that he did not speak to me for more than a year. He hated me and refused to be interviewed by me. But I was always struck by his charisma and his unorthodox style of politics and sometimes his affection was infectious. I was always intrigued by his simplicity despite his fodder scam and corruption allegations.
I always found him a great communicator, he was the only politician who understood TV and exploited it to the maximum for his benefit. If I tell you the truth, he is the one who gave credence to our Constitution, and in real sense he was the real modern politician who understood the concept of equality and liberty along with Kanshi Ram. Before him, the Indian constitution symbolised democracy but it was democracy for them who were literate and powerful and for the upper caste or for powerful castes. Gandhiji talked about the last man of the society, Nehru tried to reach to the people on the margin, Lohiya tried to exploit this section of the society for his political game. But none succeeded like him. During their time, leaders of the backward communities were more than happy if few of them become ministers and given powerful ministries. All such leaders were co-opted in a upper caste-led system. Jagjivan Ram and Charan Singh were few of them at the national level and there were many at the regional level. But all such politicians worked for their interests, became powerful and forgot their roots and tried to imitate the political elites, tried to be like them .
Lalu was different along with Kanshi Ram. I agree he was the product of a political accident called Mandal Commission. If V P Singh had not implemented Mandal Commission, probably Lalu was also one of the few Chief Ministers who by now would have been forgotten by the masses. Mandal Commission helped him create a political constituency of backward caste and the arrest of L K Adwani strategically brought Muslims towards him .
The Constitution has given them power, in the eyes of the law they were equal, but were never free, liberty was an alien concept and so the equality was a mirage. They were not free to vote, they were not free to choose, they were not free to rule. Muslims and backward caste were free as long as they were willing to choose a particular kind of government, a particular kind of candidate. They were an important part of the democracy, they were important part of the elections, but they could not decide who would be their gram pradhan, who would be their MLA, who would be their MP and also their Chief Minister. They were dictated to choose, rather subjugated to be free.
Lalu Prasad with his clever manouvering turned the table. He freed himself from V P Singh, formed his own party and made his constituency realise that the time of freedom has come, they can also choose, they can also be free, they can also decide and finally can also be the ruler. They don't have to follow some powerful caste. Lalu can also fly in a udan khatola like Jagannath Mishra used to. He talked to the rural masses and to the weaker sections in their language, which was alien to the urban elite and to rural upper caste.
He did not distance himself from his buffaloes, rather made it a symbol of empowerment. He communicated to his people that to become powerful you don't have to change your lifestyle and you don't have to be the likes of Jagannath Mishra. You can be the master of your own destiny like himself, the son of a peon. It was this sense of empowerment which gave backward castes and Muslims a sense of freedom and sense of equality. Earlier they were bigger in number but smaller in stature, Lalu made them realise they are bigger in numbers so they are bigger in stature too, at par with the most powerful because now they were not only constitutionally equal but politically and socially too. And that was the spirit of the Constitution, and that is why I say Lalu made this Constitution realise its true intent. So now when he presents Rail Budget nobody ridicules him, rather management institutes want to learn few management mantras from him.