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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 17, April 19, 2014

Centre-Bihar State Relations and Laloo Prasad Yadav

LALOO’S ASCENDANCY TO POLITICS AND POWER

Sunday 20 April 2014

by Mohammad Anzar Alam

Laloo Prasad Yadav recorded his entry in the active politics under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan during his Bihar movement, which is called as JP Movement, that was infl-uenced by the movement in Gujarat. The JP Movement started in Bihar in 1974. Laloo Prasad’s election as the General Secretary of the Patna University Students Union in 1967-69 eventually prepared the ground for his entry into the mainstream of national politics and provided him a platform to display his hidden leadership talent. He learnt the basics of politics while gaining bookish knowledge at the B.N. College, Patna.

Years of struggle in the company of several college-day Socialist friends like Narendra Singh, Sushil Kumar Modi and Nitish Kumar eventually paid off. On January 7-8, 1974, an All-India Conference of the newly-elected Students Union was held in New Delhi. A plan was chalked out to start a countrywide movement. In the Patna University (PU) Students Union election, the Vidyarthi Parishad and Yuvajan Sabha jointly decided to fight the election. Laloo Prasad Yadav was proposed for election as the President by the Yuvajan Sabha, while Sushil Kumar Modi was proposed for the post of the General Secretary by the Vidyarthi Parishad. Both were elected to the PU Students Union.

When the Emergency was imposed upon the country in 1974 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Bihar was the worst sufferer. Laloo Prasad was detained under the draconian MISA (Manintenance of Internal Security Act) and sent to jail in the last week of July 1975.

The 1977 Lok Sabha elections were the turning-point in the political life of Laloo Prasad when the one-party Congress rule at the Centre as well as in the States came to an end and the Janata Party coalition came to power. He was elected as a Member of the Lok Sabha from Chapra on a Janata Party ticket. But, at the end of 1977, the Janata Party did not present a picture of unity. During the period between June 1977 and June 1979 the Ministry at the Centre as well as the Janata Party-run government in the States were rocked by dissentions among the Ministry partners resulting in fresh Lok Sabha elections. Thus, the Janata Party could rule only for three years, until the mid-term Lok Sabha poll was held in 1980. Laloo Prasad lost his interest in the Central administration and thought it fit to try his luck in the State administration. He fought the State Assembly elections in 1980 on a Janata Party ticket and came out victorious with a thumping majority. He was re-elected in the subsequent Assembly elections of 1985 from the same constituency and continued as the Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly until he was again elected as a Member of the Lok Sabha from Chapra in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. But again the Janata Dal failed to keep its unity, and this resulted in the 10th Lok Sabha elections in 1991, wherein the Congress party regained its lost power.

As Leader of Opposition

BEFORE taking the administration in his hand as the Bihar Chief Minister, Laloo Prasad success-fully played his role as the Opposition Leader in the Bihar Assembly (1989-1990). He performed his duties and responsibilities very well. He was fully aware that the Centre was responsible for hindrance in the development of Bihar. As the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly he made the following statement on July 4, 1989: “The Centre has always adopted a negative attitude towards Bihar. All the Chief Ministers of the Congress in Bihar, except Shri Krishna Sinha, had knelt down before the Centre and never tried to compel the Centre heed to the needs of Bihar. Bihar had got only 327 per capita expenses, while other States got 1224. In the Five-Year Plans, Bihar always got much less per capita assistance than the other States.”1 The role of the financial institutions and Central Government has been less then satisfactory in this regard. Bihar, except for the First to the Fifth Five-Year Plan, has been consistently discriminated. As a result of gross neglect, the total population of Bihar is living below the poverty line.

Laloo Prasad Yadav as a Chief Minister and Central Politics

WITH his election as the Chief Minister of Bihar on March 10, 1990, Laloo Prasad Yadav knew his priorities. What is to be done first and then next, then next and so forth. He included land reforms in the priority list of his government. Social justice was his main concern. “Laloo Prasad started the process of empowerment of the powerless in all seriousness.”2 He began from the lowest point. It was at the time of Laloo Prasad that the traditional leaders lost their space in a big way to the OBCs, SCs, STs and minorities. Recommendations of the Mandal Commission were implemented at the national level by the Janata Dal on August 7, 1990. Laloo Prasad fought in favour of reservation and he warned in November 1992 those who opposed the reservation and threatened to launch a movement against the Central Government. In the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, Laloo Prasad put strongly before the voters of Bihar the issues of reservation and social justice and recorded a massive victory, whereas in other States, the then Janata Dal leaders avoided to raise the issues of reservation and social justice, resulting in the defeat of the JD candidates there. Bihar was the first State where Laloo Prasad made these two issues the main election issues in the Lok Sabha elections and won 28 seats out of 54 alone from Bihar, whereas the Janata Dal in all the other States taken together got only 56 seats. “Laloo Prasad has been the ardent advocate of secularism, national integration and communal harmony.”3

Laloo Prasad tried to bring democracy at the grass-root level and empower the downtrodden classes. In 1993, he gave to the OBCs, SCs. and STs more administrative and financial powers—as no other State had done in the country through the newly passed Panchayati Raj Act in August 1993. The Act provided for reservation of SCs and STs everywhere on the population basis. It also reserved one-third seats to women at all levels. There was no reservation of the OBCs in the judiciary, even at the district level. “The plebian Chief Minister got reserved 27 per cent posts of District Judges for them and filled the posts.” 4 The higher Courts came in and rejected the appointments. There was great resentment against the verdict in and outside the State.

Apart from this, Laloo Prasad’s another noble contribution was strengthening of several forces in the State. Many political parties talked of secularism, but it was Laloo who transformed the concept into a working reality. He appointed eight Muslim Ministers in his Council of Ministers. Gulam Sarwer, the Speaker of the Assembly, was a Muslim. There were 22 Muslim Chairmen/Members of the Boards and Corporations. He made Urdu the medium of instruction in the State Civil Services examinations conducted by the Bihar Public Service Commission. He also showed concern for the Buddhists and Christians and gave them their dues.

Laloo Prasad appointed a Commission to look after the interests of Muslims and other minorities and granted it the legal authority to set things right. This was the first experiment of its kind in the country. “There was no place in the Laloo land for the religious fanatics who disturbed peace and played with tranquillity in the State. Unmindful of the consequences and political fall-out, he arrested Lal Krishna Advani, the BJP supremo, out on his Digvijay Yatra in October, 1990, when his rath entered Bihar.”5 He took many other stringent measures against the trouble-makers. As a result there was remarkable Hindu-Muslim unity in the State. In the context of the Gujarat violence and massacre, the Hindustan in its editorial of May 4, 2002 wrote: “Former Chief Minister of Bihar and RJD President Laloo Prasad Yadav, in the Rajya Sabha, launched a serious attack on the BJP, which irritated the Kesariya Brigade, but if the BJP sincerely thinks, it would be convinced that its reputation has been rightly tarnished after the Gujarat violence. Laloo Prasad even addressed the BJP as the ‘Bharat Jalao Party’.”6
Laloo Prasad’s Social Movement

ON the issue of Brahmanvad, Ojha and Kazmi observed that in the 1999 elections, perhaps for the first time people heard Laloo say he was not against Brahmins. When he promoted the Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) formula it was a different kind of anti-Brahmanism. During the days of the Mandal Commission upheaval, he had once said: “Our fight is of a thousand years against the establishment against discrimination, against Brahmanvad. We want to change the status quo. We are saying that our brothers who are downtrodden should be given special opportunity.”7 It might have been consistent if Laloo had been talking about non-Brahmanism as an ideology of the Indian socialist movement. But this was an institutionalised pro-backward politics aimed at eliminating upper-caste prominence in the governance of the state.

At one time he used to express his determination to root out ‘Bhura Baal’ from Bihar. Literally translated bhura-baal means brown hair. However, the expression ‘bhura-baal’ was an acronym wherein ‘bhu’ stood for Bhumihar, ‘ra’ stood for Rajput, ‘baa’ stood for Brahman and ‘la’ for Laloo, that is, Kayastha. Although hardly anyone took these words seriously as they were meant to entertain the audience, nonetheless, coming from the Chief Minister of the second largest State, such utternances were wholly partisan and indicative of the deep caste cleavages.

The first four decades of politics in Bihar was dominated by Brahmin leaders. The Laloo social movement diminished the hold of the upper castes in the politics of Bihar. Laloo successfully diverted the attention of the voters from development to izzat (respect) and security. While he has been able to play his izzat card successfully among the Dalits and large numbers of OBCs, he has been equally clever in reminding the Muslims of the security of their life and property for his power and politics.

Personalisation of Power and Politics and Impact on Centre-States Relations

IT is this pattern of highly personalised one-man rule, quite independent of the normal mechanisms and administration, that permits the Thakurs to refer to Laloo Yadav as a feudal lord. By this reading he is the Chief Minister as a feudal lord with no sense or interest in the ultimate purpose of his government, namely, to govern. Walter Hauser, in his review of the book, entitled The Making of Laloo Yadav: The Unmaking of Bihar, written by Sankarshan Thakur, said, among other things: “The cynical twist in the story is that maintaining Laloo Yadav in power became the only goal, inevitably to the detriment not only of his backward classes and Muslim vote-bank, but for the 100-million citizens of India who are Biharis.”8 The specific beneficiaries of the Laloo Raj were his intimate associates, most often his caste-fellows, family friends, contractors and, if one is to believe press reports, many of the mafia dons and criminal gangs of Bihar whom he was said to patronise, all of whom in effect became an alternate centre of power in an environment where normal structures of governance and administration were being undermined. What has been called ‘Jungle raj’ with reference to this emerging pattern and the absence of law and order, or anything approximating an effective policing system, might more accurately be described as ‘Chamcha raj’, the rule of cronies and hangers-on of the main person, Laloo Yadav.

For Laloo Yadav the very concept of infrastructure development is a joke as he has made clear time and time again. The result of course was that there was no policy and no development meaning that all economic indicators were in a precipitous decline over the decade of the nineties. The fiscal system was in a state of collapse, which in turn made possible a foddar scandal and an infinite number of other scandals. Thakur reported that thousands of crores of Central Government development funds directed to Bihar were unused year after year. A Secretary of Laloo’s government laments this as criminal but nobody could do a thing. In mid-July of the same year, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India made the same charge. And a similar state of chaos existed in other critical areas, whether in medicines, as a response to a plane crash revealed, or education, or power, or roads and so on ad infinitum. The tragedy of Bihar was precisely that the poor, unlettered and backward citizens of Bihar, who stand to benefit most from the new technology, were made to believe in Laloo Yadav’s fear of the unknown and his Luddite vision of the 21st century that remaining backward was an acceptable expression of assertion. It is, after all, serious governance, development and everything that means in the year 2000, which might have given substance to the ideas of equity and social justice to all of the citizens of Bihar. Regrettably this logic was not a part of Laloo Yadav’s conceptual, social or political lexicon.

In his book on Bihar Economy Through The Plans, K.N. Prasad has made the following observation: “The Raj in Bihar is universally alleged to be generally the Raj of the ruling caste. No Chief Minister prior to Laloo Prasad articulated his awareness of this plunder of Bihar. In publicly denouncing the Centre for its step-motherly treatment to Bihar, Karpoori, Mishra and Laloo were exceptions, Laloo being the most vocal of the trio. Bihar is a State which unrivalled in India in the exploitation of one section of society by another, as also of those without power and authority by those vested with it. The most exploited class is that of agricultural labourers who are bereft of land. In sheer number and percentage they are at the top of the list in the country, but in economic condition at its bottom. Casteism and corruption are the universal co-phenomena of India but in their degree and intensity Bihar is Number One in them.”9

Formation of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)

ON May 29, 1997, Laloo Prasad filed his nomination seeking a second term as the national Janata Dal President. Sharad Yadav also filed nomination for the same in order to challenge Laloo Prasad. Laloo Prasad asked the Returning Officer (RO), P.K. Samatraj, to co-opt 58 of his supporters to the JD’s electoral college, but the RO declined to do so. Laloo Prasad then issued a show-cause to the RO and the matter went to the High Court.

The High Court in its order said: “Laloo Prasad Yadav, his agents and supporters are restrained from extending any threat or causing any obstructions or hindrance in the conduct of election or in the functioning of the RO for the election of the national President.”10 Laloo Prasad challenged the JD poll process in the Delhi High Court, but the Court questioned his continuance as the Janata Dal chief. The Hon’ble Court also authorised Madhu Dandavate to go ahead with conducting the organisational poll by July 3, 1997 but the JD Legislature Party (JLP) decided to boycott the organisational poll being held at Patna. The JLP authorised Laloo Prasad to take a formal decision with regard to initiating the future course of action. A vertical split had become imminent within the party with the party leaders opposing Laloo Prasad and the Legislature wing supporting him.

Prime Minister I.K. Gujral made a last-ditch effort to avoid the split by making telephonic contact with Laloo Prasad who had turned belligerent. He did not want to listen to anyone and was determined to prove ‘he was the real claimant’ to power. He was the real mass leader. The masses had given him power and only the masses could sack him. How could these ‘political parasites’, who got asylum because of his support, survive on their own and dictate terms to him? It was simply a ‘breach of trust’ and a stab in his back.11

The fight for power came out on the streets of the busy Beer Chand Patel Marge at Patna and the target was Sharad Yadav. On July 3, 1997, Laloo’s supporters squatted in the middle of the road near Hotel Pataliputra and busied themselves in performing ‘shradh’ to mark the ‘political death’ of Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, who was then the Union Railway Minister.

Manoj Chaurasia has made the following observation: “While senior party leaders came from New Delhi to oversee the organisational polls, Laloo Prasad’s faction boycotted the polls and was busy organising ‘Shradh Karma’. Though it was intended to be a mock ritual, it appeared to be real in action. Laloo Prasad’s diehard loyalists got their heads shaved by leaders summoned for this purpose and chanted mantras—‘Sharad Yadav Swaha’, ‘Deve Gowda Swaha’, ‘Ramai Ram dushtaatma’, ‘Ramai narake gachhamah’ (An end to Sharad, Deve Gowda and Ramai Ram who was a bad soul; Ramai would go to hell).”12

With no opposition—since Laloo Prasad boycotted the polls—Sharad Yadav officially became the national President of the Janata Dal. Laloo Prasad soon formed a new party and named it the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) at a meeting held in the lawns of the Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi and became the national President of his new outfit. The formation of the RJD had obviously taken the wind out of the Janta Dal’s sails. Sharad Yadav and company continued to devise means to ensure his dismissal from the post of the Chief Minister but Laloo Prasad remained firmly seated on the throne. It is unclear if he initially wanted to name his new outfit as the Rabri Janata Dal, but backtracked and settled for ‘Rashtriya’ fearing backlash from the remaining party leaders. He might have apprehended that his adversaries could use it as another weapon to strike him with. Laloo Prasad publicised the new outfit as simply ‘RJD’. He was satisfied with its name. But on a question from a journalist the other day, the truth came out of Rabri Devi’s mouth: “The day we formed the Janata Dal, it actually stands for Rabri Janata Dal.”13

Ram Bachan (R.B.) Roy, the RJD spokesman, replied, on the question of the formation of the RJD: “Sharad Yadav himself wanted to become the national President of the Janata Dal. As he was officiating as the President, he managed to manipulate the papers and hatched a conspiracy to remove Laloo Prasad Yadav. There was no alternative for Laloo Prasad but to from a new party. Accordingly the RJD was formed on July 5, 1997 and Laloo Prasad was elected its President.”14 Raghuvansh Prashad Singh, the ex-RJD Central Minister, opined: “The RJD was formed with the end to uplift the backward classes, downtrodden sections of the society and minority communities.” 15

REFERENCES


1. Saroj Kumar Gupta, Laloo Prasad: Vyakti Aur Vichar, Patna: Shashank Publication, 2005, pp. 112-113.
2. K.C. Yadav “The Last shall be First: Empowerment of Powerless, 1990-2003” in R.N. Yadav (ed.), Bihar: Myth and Reality, Gurgaon: Hope India Publications, 2004, p. 74.
3. Saroj Kumar Gupta, Laloo Prasad: Vyakti Aur Vichar, op. cit., p. 84.
4. K.C. Yadav, Bihar: Myth and Reality, op. cit., p. 76.
5. Ibid.
6. Hindustan (Hindi),”Laloo Ka Parhar”, Patna: July 4, 2002.
7. A.K. Ojha and M.R. Kazmi, “Bio-Polar, Competition and 13th Lok Sabha Elections in Bihar” in Ramashray Roy and Paul Wallace (ed.), India’s 1999 Elections and 20th Century Politics, Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003, p. 347.
8. Walter Hauser’s book review of Sankarshan Thakur’s, The Making of Laloo Yadav: The Unmaking of Bihar at http://www.Lib.Virgina.edu/area-studies/South Asia/Bihar wh28j/2000.htm
9. Kedar N. Prasad, Bihar Economy Through the Plans, New Delhi: Northern Book Centre, 1999, pp. (VI) and (VII).
10. Monaj Chaurasia, Rabri Devi—Laloo’s Masterstroke, New Delhi: Vitasha Publishing Pvt. Ltd., 2000, p. 138.
11. Ibid., p. 139.
12. Ibid.
13. India Today, “Match Fixing”, Delhi: August 11, 1997.
14. Ram Bachan Roy’s reply to the questionnaire.
15. Based on personal interview on March 10, 2010.

Dr Mohammad Anzar Alam is the Director, Salvation Centre for Social and Educational Development,
New Delhi. He can be contacted at e-mail: anzaralam@gmail.com