On one lazy evening of June 2006, Subhas Yadav, the brother-in-law of the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad was boarding Rajdhani Express from Patna Junction. He found it inconvenient to cross an overbridge to board the train, so he ordered train officials to change the platform of the train, for which hundreds of passengers were waiting at specified platforms. Subhash Yadav got it done. The very next day, his other brother-in-law got Sampoorna Kranti to change the platform. A year later, Subhash Yadav created a ruckus at Patna Junction by getting Rajdhani Express detained for 20 minutes because he couldn’t get a ticket for the train. The train only moved when Subhash Yadav was provided accommodation in the AC first class of train.
This was the kind of lawlessness which Lalu’s kin was exercising when Lalu Yadav was not in power. Imagine what would be the case before that.
In 1973-74, young Lalu entered active politics by becoming one of the key figures in the JP-led student movement. For the next 15 years, he saw many ups and downs in his career, and then came 1990! 1990 brought an unprecedented change in his career graph. First, political equations and political ego clashes favoured Lalu to become the CM of Bihar, and then, in the same year, Lalu did something which gave him prominence at the national level. Lalu arrested L.K.Advani during Rath Yatra and blamed him of spreading communal tensions. Thus gave him a huge visibility and made him the secular star of the nation.
What happened to Bihar after this is something which changed the state forever.
Let’s start with the good part first. Lalu played a very crucial role in raising the stature of lower castes in Bihar. Casteism was so dominant in Bihar that from the employment of a peon to the selection of BPSC top officials, lower caste had to face discrimination. Even in top colleges like PMCH, Engineering College Patna or Engineering College Muzaffarpur, students were divided into caste brackets or xylem/phloem on the very first day. The extreme discrimination also led to the disappearance of caste-based surnames and birth of surnames like Raj, Prakash, Roushan, Kumar, Ranjan, Rani, etc. — a phenomenon which amuses Indian belonging to different states. He did empower lower castes people and gave them entry into the mainstream. This gave Lalu such a strong vote bank that even now BJP, JDU, LJP, Congress couldn’t breach.
Now comes the haunting part. While Lalu did work towards the upliftment of the lower castes, this resulted also in a sort of reserve casteism where the upper caste Bhumihars and Rajputs started fearing from Lalu. In fact, from the lower castes, it was now the upper castes who started changing their surnames to hide their identity.
Under Lalu, every form of crime was institutionalized. “Rangdaari tax” became an official term in Bihar. Extortion, kidnapping, murders, booth capturing became so common that Biharis changed their lifestyles to cope with it. Even in the capital city, people stopped roaming after 8 in the night. While other stated were constructing roads, hospitals, schools, colleges, institutes, Bihar was feeding crores of fodder to animals. Many companies fled away from Bihar and never returned. The dilapidated Gandhi Setu built between Patna and Hajipur soon became the real imagery of Bihar. People were paying tax for a shaky bridge which was fighting to survive and the tax money never reached it.
This was not the worst thing under Lalu. The more unfortunate part was that Lalu cracked public jokes on the plight of the state and the most unfortunate part was that people laughed at those jokes. When India was gearing up for computer revolution, Lalu was asking, “yeh IT YT kya hai, kya computer doodh deta hai?” Just a sweet coincidence that while many Biharis are working in IT sectors of Bangalore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Mysore or Chennai, Bihar doesn’t have any large IT firm.
When more than 5 lakh people were affected by the flood levels in the Ganga, Lalu Prasad was telling people that “it’s a fortunate and welcome sight to find the Ganga at one’s doorsteps”. In other depressing flood situation, Lalu entertained the media by enlightening them that flood is good for the poor as they can have fish in their meal now. When Lalu was paralyzing railways by fudging data, his followers were not worried about their future, but they were happy that Lalu is able to fool the international media.
It is a big irony that Lalu became a secular hero by making a mockery of secularism. Lalu publicly boasted his famous M-Y (Muslim Yadav) theory meant to exclusively woo Muslims and Yadavs. Bihar was becoming a priority destination of ISI infiltrators, but instead of controlling it, Lalu promoted Bahubalis like Shahabuddin. A brief reading about Shahabuddin will send a chill down your spine. If that was not enough, Lalu used of a look-alike of Osama Bin Laden in the 2005 Bihar election to woo Muslims.
Most of the Biharis would have their share of stories under Lalu in which their relatives were looted, their friends were kidnapped or their knowns were murdered. It was only after Nitish became the CM that Biharis stopped hiding their state identity.