Recently, Lalu Prasad Yadav was convicted by a special CBI court of Jharkhand in one of the cases of the Fodder Scam and he’s now thrown behind the bars for three and half years, for the second time since he was convicted in the same scam in October 2013. Since this verdict, the political amphitheatre of Bihar, sans the RJD camp, was found in a jubilant mood. The people’s mood and reaction have been quite heterogeneous and difficult to gauge as most of them think that the scamster will be soon come out of jail using his crooked methods.
Lalu Prasad Yadav is one of the most shrewd and manipulative political double-dealers India ever had. Starting his political career as a foot soldier of Jayaprakash Narayan’s Total Revolution, during the Emergency period, Lalu Prasad Yadav reached the pinnacle of Bihar and national politics by playing the caste and communal card, plus, by becoming an appendage of the Congress Party, his once-upon-a-time bete-noire. There is no one more happening and with a larger political glamour in present-day Bihar, who can take on, or even challenge, the popularity of Lalu Prasad Yadav, even during his incarceration.
The Fodder Scam is a collection of nearly 44 cases of corruption, which was first unearthed in 1985, five years before Lalu Prasad Yadav became the Chief Minister of Bihar. The scam snowballed for 20 years, from the 1970s to the 1990s, during which nearly ₹945 crore was siphoned off from the public exchequer to buy fodder and machinery for a non-existent livestock by the Bihar Animal Husbandry department. At the value of rupees in 2016, the scam’s worth is ₹3450 crore. Certainly a shocking amount for a state, which is deeply mired in poverty and is standing with a begging bowl, demanding a special status from the Central Government.
During the aforementioned period of the scam, especially during the six years of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s rule between 1990-1996, the bureaucrats, ministers, public representatives and local mafia of Bihar formed a strong and omnipotent criminal syndicate to withdraw money from the state exchequer and siphon it off. The CBI enquiry against Lalu Prasad Yadav caused severe damage to the Indra Kumar Gujral government and helped Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP to usurp power.
Lalu Prasad Yadav remained on the receiving end of the anti-corruption rhetoric of all prominent politicians and mainstream journalists since 1997. Still, he managed to charm his vote bank, portraying himself as a soldier of secularism and a messiah of the backward castes in Bihar. His charisma helped the RJD to sail through the rough sea and eventually become an important player in national politics between 2004-09.
It’s a laudable thing that the Indian judiciary has shown a seasoned scamster and an utmost corrupt, power-hungry politician his real place – the prison. However, by targeting just Lalu Prasad Yadav, who became the Chief Minister of Bihar in 1990, while the Fodder Scam actually started taking shape as an organised crime since the late 1970s, the governments of Narendra Modi and Sushil Modi (the de facto Chief Minister of Bihar) is leaving lot of ambiguity in the air over the question of fighting graft.
The predecessors of Lalu Prasad Yadav, the people from the Congress and the Janata confederacy, who have either switched camps to be in the BJP or its ally, the JD(U), are spared from a similar type of media and judicial trial due to their political alignments and allegiance. Apart from Lalu Prasad Yadav and few top-shot bureaucrats of the yesteryears, no politician of Bihar was troubled by the state machinery.
Take for example the case of Jagannath Mishra, a former chief minister of the state, who was acquitted by the same court of all charges on 23 December 2018 when it convicted Lalu Prasad Yadav. Jagannath Mishra was earlier convicted by a tribunal in the Fodder Scam in September 2013. Mishra’s son, Nitish Mishra, is a part of the BJP as one of its MLAs in Bihar. Probably it’s one of the reasons, if we ignore the caste of Mishra, to understand the reluctance of the government and the ruling class to punish him, the way they threw Lalu Prasad Yadav behind the bars.
The different treatment meted out to two different convicts, raise doubts over the intention of the ruling dispensation. Is it trying to do away with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s political career? Or is it Nitish Mishra, the BJP MLA, who is saving his father Jagannath Mishra from the claws of the law and the government? Is Nitish Kumar taking potshots at Lalu Prasad Yadav to avenge the humiliation he said he faced in the poorly-knitted coalition he was in with his bete noire? There is no single, one-sided answer to these questions, rather, Lalu Prasad Yadav and his role in contemporary Bihar politics must be analysed objectively before uncritically criticising or supporting him.
Though Lalu Prasad Yadav is unabashedly anti-BJP in political arithmetics, under no circumstances he can be called an anti-Hindutva and pro-Dalit or pro-backward caste politician. Rather, by carefully weaving a fraudulent identity of a secular, pro-poor, pro-oppressed and backward caste politician, Lalu Prasad Yadav, along with his coterie, helped the feudal landlord classes to continue their oppression and exploitation in Bihar for decades. Lalu Prasad Yadav and the BJP have locked horns over the choice of landlords and their caste position rather than over the question of the existence of the reactionary, patriarchal and Brahmanical feudal landlords as the ruling class in the state.
Our Ambedkarite neo-left, whose political hue is more blue rather than red, will call the vendetta of the RSS-BJP a Brahmanical witch hunt against those who have held high the banner of secularism against the Hindutva onslaught. The Ambedkarites and the utmost opportunist parliamentary left will claim that Lalu Prasad Yadav is at the receiving end from the present regime because he insulted the Hindutva camp by jailing Lal Krishna Advani, when the latter tried to enter Bihar during his infamous “Rath Yatra” of 1990, which was the catalyst of the evil force that led to the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
These claims and assumptions are blatantly false and just because they are coming from the opponents of Narendra Modi, doesn’t add any weight to these baseless and worthless claims. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s involvement in the Fodder Scam was exposed as a part of the internal strife within the ruling classes of Bihar, which is ruled by a multitude of different feudal landlords from upper and middle-caste groups. While Lalu Prasad Yadav received the support of one camp, he was opposed by another and the latter got upper-hand due to the rise of the BJP. It’s for this reason that Lalu Prasad Yadav had to face the wrath of the victorious feudal camp, which is equally reactionary as the camp that supported him.
Lalu Prasad Yadav, along with Mulayam Singh Yadav, had been instrumental in playing the “Third Front” game for a long time, exploiting the support to that cause by the parliamentary left. These two leaders have portrayed themselves as hardcore seculars and adverse to any alliance with the communal fascist BJP, unlike Mayawati or Ramvilas Paswan, two self-styled Dalit stalwarts who have driven the Bahujan movement to astray by embracing opportunism. Lalu Prasad
If the role of both Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav are analysed, then it will be found that they both played their so-called secular role during the anti-Babri Masjid militant movement of the Hindutva camp then led by Lal Krishna Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. By arresting Lal Krishna Advani, Lalu Prasad Yadav only fulfilled his Constitutional duty and by helping him get a bail soon and by not slapping harsh IPC sections against him, Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Janata Dal also helped him to skip the legal hurdles and carry ahead his vicious campaign against the Muslim community.
The ghastly 1989 Bhagalpur pogrom, carried out by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, supported by the BJP and the Congress, paved the way for the rise of Lalu Prasad Yadav. A large number of Yadavs, in the employ of feudal landlords, took part in that anti-Muslim pogrom as foot soldiers of the Hindutva camp and played a crucial role in the brutal massacre of Muslims.
The Yadavs, who form 11.8 per cent of Bihar’s voters, became a strong vote bank for Lalu Prasad Yadav and many saw their fortune grow under Lalu’s rule. At the same time, many accused of the 1989 pogrom from the Yadav community received absolute immunity under Lalu’s rule.
Lalu Prasad Yadav’s secularism meant breeding venomous serpents like Mohammad Shahabuddin, who grew extremely stronger under Lalu Prasad Yadav’s patronage and carried out his anti-communist massacres and brutal tyranny in Siwan, North Bihar. The murder of JNU’s student leader Chandrashekhar Prasad was committed under the command of Shahabuddin in the full knowledge of the then Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, the self-styled messiah of the backward castes and the poor.
When the students of JNU went to protest against the killing of Chandrashekhar in New Delhi’s Bihar Bhawan, they were first bullied and then attacked by Lalu Prasad Yadav’s goons, led by the notorious Sadhu Yadav, who opened fire on the students. All these, while the so-called messiah of the poor and then Janata Dal leader, rested back inside the liaison centre, enjoying the scene of students getting thrashed and injured by the notorious criminals he carried along with him everywhere as “aides” and party workers.
The zealot Ambedkarite supporters of Lalu Prasad Yadav forget that he is the man who oversaw the formation and growth of the notorious private armies like the Ranveer Sena, Sunlight Sena, etc., which rallied under the command of the upper-caste feudal landlords of Bihar and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s regime didn’t order a single military crackdown to destroy these private armies because they served his greater anti-communist and pro-feudal business interests in Bihar.
The following is the list of the gruesome massacres of Dalits and backward caste people, including women and children, committed by the feudal army, the Ranveer Sena, which was found to have links with the BJP as well as other right-wing parties of Bihar. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s government provided unapologetic patronage to the Ranveer Sena to check the growth of the left-wing movement against feudal dominance and atrocities.
1996, Nadhi (Bhojpur): 9 Dalits were killed by upper-caste feudal landlords
1996, Bathanitola (Bhojpur): 22 Dalits killed by upper-caste feudal landlords
1997, Haibaspur (Patna): 10 Dalits killed by upper-caste feudal landlords
1997, Ekwari (Bhojpur): 10 Dalits killed by upper-caste feudal landlords
1997, Khadasin (Jehanabad): 8 Dalits killed by upper-caste feudal landlords
Then the most notorious one, 1997, Lakshmanpur-Bathe (Jehanabad): 61 Dalits killed in a single attack by the notorious upper-caste feudal landlords
1998, Nagri (Bhojpur): 10 Dalits massacred by upper-caste feudal landlords
1999, Shankar Bigha (Jehanabad): 23 Dalits brutally massacred by upper-caste feudal landlords
1999, Narayanpur (Jehanabad): 11 Dalits killed by upper-caste feudal landlords
1999, Sendani (Gaya): 12 Dalits killed by upper-caste feudal landlords
2000, Mianpur (Aurangabad): 35 Dalits and backward caste peasants killed by upper-caste feudal landlords
All these crimes were committed against the rural poor belonging to the Dalit and backward castes, who were fighting against the casteist feudal system with the aim of establishing a people’s democracy – the hegemony of the poor, the landless and the semi-pauperised peasants. All of these heinous crimes, including the formation of the notorious Ranveer Sena, happened either during the direct reign of Lalu Prasad Yadav or during the rule of his party RJD led by Rabri Devi.
Rather than chasing and punishing the culprits responsible for these heinous crimes, rather than incarcerating the criminals who massacred the poor Dalits and backward caste people, Lalu Prasad Yadav and the RJD protected them, saved them from public wrath and then provided state patronage to these feudal forces in return for their support to the RJD government. It’s his version of social engineering, forging an alliance between the upper-caste and the upper-section of the backward-caste feudal landlords, which kept his regime intact for years.
It isn’t the case that Lalu Prasad Yadav has done immense good to the cause of the Muslims, whom he called his vote bank throughout his tenure in the state. He not only protected the accused of the 1989 Bhagalpur communal carnage, many of whom were powerful Yadavs, but also shielded the guilty policemen, like the then Superintendent of Police K.S. Dwivedi, who openly sided with the Hindutva mob and helped them to lynch hapless Muslims in Bhagalpur.
Lalu Prasad Yadav has lost it completely; his political charisma only floated on the murky water of Bihar’s politics, while the erosion of RJD’s support base started sinking the party’s fortune since 2009. The Modi government is now putting him behind the bar to ensure a smooth functioning of the coalition of Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi in Bihar, which was formed by the BJP after it poached Nitish Kumar from the clutches of his former aide and permanent bete-noire.
The BJP clearly wants to weaken the parliamentary opposition that it faces in each of the states and to do it, like any other previous regimes, the Modi regime is using the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and other wings of the state to corner the opponents, who are equally corrupt like him and the BJP’s other leaders.
Despite this ordeal and the sudden incarceration of Lalu Prasad Yadav, he will neither become a martyr for the progressive and democratic camp nor will his criminal empire and his nefarious nexus with other political double-dealers cease to exist. Lalu Prasad Yadav, like all jailed political and “spiritual superstars-cum-rapists”, will continue to rule over the RJD’s fiefdom in Bihar through the dynastic rule he had established.
The only thing that Lalu Prasad Yadav’s incarceration will do to the politics of Bihar and elsewhere is -it will help Narendra Modi earn heaps of praise from the urban middle-class and lower-middle class of the country, for whom corruption in public life is a serious turn-off, even more than the heinous ideology of communalism and fascism. On the other hand, the RJD will try to cash the jailing of Lalu Prasad Yadav to wean the support of the disgruntled Yadavs and other upper-sections of the backward castes and Muslims to ease its path to victory in the 2019 general election.
Pramod Singh is based in Patna. He is a political analyst who continuously monitors the events taking place around him. He is interested in learning foreign languages and he is an occasional poet.