Among the many distractions and distortions the masses have been struggling with, recognising the politics of Lalu Prasad Yadav, the leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) has been a significant one. For 14 years, Lalu Yadav has been imprisoned for his involvement in the Fodder Scam. The complexities around conflicts between social groups, never cease to exist.
It is always the dominant community’s opinions that control the resources of a society which lacks equity. In thepast six years, the Modi-Shah government has been doing nothing but executing a tasklist decided by the Sangh Parivar back in 1990. On December 07, 2017 NDTV blog published Lalu Yadav’s interview ( https://www.ndtv.com/blog/lalu-yadav-on-why-and-how-he-arrested-lk-advani-on-october-23-1990-1784734) with a disclaimer that ‘facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV’. But I do, believe that what Lalu Yadav did in 1990, was exactly the need of that time. I already mentioned in my earlier article, that it is not a coincidence that upper caste identities are almost always taking a stand against the constitution.
The grammarians (practices, action and reactions) of society are clueless. Questions are many. Was the fodder scam enough to send Lalu Yadav to jail for 14 years? Were there not other politicians who had committed crimes as costly as his? And amongst all, why was Lalu Yadav the only one to be sentenced? What are the reasons behind it? The obvious answer would be Lalu Yadav was the politician intrepid enough to arrest LK Advani, the then-BJP President who was midway in his Ram Rath Yatra.
Lalu Yadav, in fact, had been organising the Bihari society against the vicious anti-constitutional elements long before arresting Advani, this is evidenced by numerous prior incidents. One must understand that ‘resilience’ is self-preserving in frightful times.
Lalu Yadav, a man who discovered politics early on in his college days in Patna University, and eventually went on to become the president of its student union in 1973. His original narrative and understanding of the socialist politics made him a natural ally of the Vidyarthi Parishad. Here, he played an important role in standing against the Sangh’s deficit arguments and differentiations within the student politics. In 1972, when the anti-Emergency movement hit the streets; the Lohiawadis (Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar) under leadership of Jay Prakash Narayan stood up to the anti-democratic agendas of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress, in which the RSS backed Jan Sangh was their ally. This allied force, later re-defining itself as the Janata Party, did make an impact, in the 6th Lok Sabha general election Morarji Desai was appointed the Prime Minister of India, the first non-Congressian to hold this position.
The irrelevance of Congress in Bihar had gained Lalu Yadav much ground. Jay Prakash Narayan was the kingmaker in electing Morarji Desai as Prime Minister while sidelining Jagjivan Ram, Lalu’s political guru and the source of his socialist ideology. Jagjivan Ram became deputy prime minister but it affected Lalu Yadav at many levels. Jay Prakash Narayan’s Sanghi act of preferring Morarji Desai over Jagjivan Ram pushed Yadav into action. Lalu’s charm and social action made him a villain in the eyes of the unsympathetic upper caste feudal lords of Bihar, who right up till that period were the undisputed rulers of the State. However it was the Bhagalpur riots that made him a true hero in the eyes of his people. It converted the Muslim vote from Congress to Janata Dal – for the first time Congress felt a threat from a lower-caste Yadav leader. And it looked as if Bihar’s wretched land had finally found a saviour in the good natured, unassuming and modest leader in 1990.
Yadav’s differences with the Jansangh and its un-Constitutional stand made him realise how RSS-backed Jan Sangh was detrimental to Bihar and the country. By this time the Janata party had broken up and in 1988, and as a result the Janata Dal had been formed under the leadership of V P Singh and Devilal, these Lohiaites supposedly with an aim to form a strong opposition to RSS. But it was only Lalu Yadav who was seen making statements against RSS from time to time. It was also around this time that he exposed the RSS’ working style. He informed the public of JP Narayan’s connection with RSS which began in 1974 when jails were filled with RSS cadres. The Emergency breathed new life into the previously banned RSS giving it a chance to come back into public light. Jansangh backed organisations like the Chhaatra Yuva Sangarsh Vahini (CYSV) also gained numbers because of the Emergency, post which Narayan made his stand on RSS quite clear, “If the RSS is fascist, so am I” paving way for the largest organisation to be created by RSS “Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP).
Lalu Yadav began revealing old controversies, within newer contexts, when he exposed how Atal Bihari Vajpeyee was an informer to the British in 1942. The then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee defended himself, “Maine kisi ki mukhbari nahin ki, kisi ki chugli nahin ki (I did not complain to anyone. I was not an informer for the British)”. Lalu Yadav was not simply rejecting Atal Bihari’s life as a freedom fighter but was revealing a much deeper symptom of Hindutva on Indian politics – disloyalty to the people for personal gain. More elaboration is available in the pamphlet published in 1989 by D S Adel on behalf of All India Freedom Fighter Organisation (AIFFO) in New Delhi titled, “How patriotic is Atal Bihari Vajpayee who betrayed the ‘Quit India’ movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942”.
Yadav also opposed the display of Savarkar’s photo in Parliament stating how Savarkar had in fact apologised to the British to in return for mercy to reduce his jail sentence. In one of the sessions in Parliament, Vajpeyee spoke against Lalu Yadav’s statements, condemning him, but Lalu Yadav remained firm on his stand and responded that he took the responsibility of the socialist movement from Narayan to stop the RSS and for the wellbeing of the society. Thus, the covert differences with Jay Prakash Narayan and Nitish made them the antagonists to Lalu Yadav’s larger plan. The CYSV might have provided immense political significance to Lalu Yadav, but its distorted power went against the wellbeing of the society.
LK Advani led Rath Yatra was a ‘jana jagaran’ planned along the lines of RSS’s agenda to awaken the Hindu pride among the people. It included the plan of destroying the Babri Masjid, originally an unconscious apolitical Hindu agenda that eventually became central to their politics. During election campaigns between 1990 to 2013, Lalu Yadav used to carry with him Golwalkar’s book ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ and appeal to the mob to burn it, where he would torch it first.
In the years that led to Mandal Commission, Lalu Yadav was an active member providing recommendations to policy law which would provide reservations to lower caste OBCs in proportion to their population. In addition he has always been vocal about his demand for Caste-based Census, which would lay bare the RSS – at its core a Brahmin creation working toward a Hindu Rashtra built on caste-feudal servitude. Not surprisingly, the RSS reacted to the Mandal reforms by instigating anti-Mandal violence and the symbolic Kamandal (a symbol of Hindu purity in the form of a water pot used for rituals).
The list of Lalu Yadav’s rigorous and energetic means of resistance against the RSS goes on. RSS was already looking for a reason to imprison him, and the Fodder Scam served their purpose. Lalu Yadav once had expressed that “mar mit jayenge par RSS ke sath samjhauta nahi karenge”. He chose to be imprisoned rather than enter negotiations with the RSS. The diplomatic hero of the distressed, depressed, agrarian Bihari would speak in Maithili to the Bramhan journalists to locate and arrest LK Advani1, but would use Bhojpuri in his public speeches. Lalu could see that the RSS never stood for a tricolour national flag but in fact for a saffron flag, and today more so than ever, the saffron flag is visible to everyone on your streets, in public spaces.
Lalu Yadav fought a lone war, is that not a sign of true leadership? Isn’t it self-preservation against tyranny? Lalu Yadav once called Savarkar a traitor, which got him immense criticism, but he didn’t apologise and instead demanded the picture of Savarkar to be removed from Parliament. Unlike Savarkar and Bajpeyee he did not apologise to the powers that be and escape imprisonment.
Later, when Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU) turned in support of the RSS, Lalu labelled him a ‘Palturam’2 and reminded everyone that ‘Do hazar bis, nahi banega Mukhyamantri Nitish’, his new slogan that is going viral now. The Nitish Kumar-Lalu Yadav “Mahagathbandhan” came to an end when BJP’s Kishore Yadav met Nitish and PM Modi congratulated him via Twitter. Rabri Devi (former CM of Bihar and Lalu Yadav’s spouse), “Nitish Kumar is a cheater. He betrayed us. People of Bihar will teach Nitish a lesson soon”. During the crucial period in 2014-15; Nitish would spend his day in meetings with Rabri Devi and Lalu Yadav and at night, he used to call on BJP leaders.
After 2014; Indian politics turned into a series of events that fit squarely into the RSS-Hindu Rashtra framework; killing any hope that any opposing political leader might have had at that time. The BJP took advantage of the local realities of the caste and belief to create a rift between regional parties and emerged as an undivided Hindu fascist force. The BJP modus operandi in the past 6 years has been using the Hindu mob as a tool for polarisation and creating an Other whose life is expendable. Jailing Lalu as punishment for speaking out against RSS exposes Nitish’s betrayal at the same time burying the idea of a progressive socialist Bihar.
Does it also mean that the socialist agenda of Lalu Yadav still remains relevant? Yes but, Lalu Yadav shouldn’t forget the rise of the RSS cadre made his Gandhian socialist movement weak and consequently got him imprisoned. What will the Bihar election look like? No doubt; Lalu Yadav will have a difficult time in influencing the masses from jail but I do not believe he has lost all his support and solidarity. He is surely not out of the race for the Bihar State Legislative Assembly elections of October 2020 but this would have been exponentially easier for him without Nitish’s betrayal and Modi-Shah duo that sits at the centre of the country and has done everything in its power to destroy regional politics within states. My advice to Lalu Yadav would be to look to all those who have overcome the BJP in these crucial times – states like Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Bihar holds a very important place in Indian politics; and to end the RSS-BJPs Hindutva gentrification is all important for the betterment of its society as well as for India. Government as an agent, or as an instrument of civic society should be unwavering in its support towards its people. Lalu Yadav’s only crime is that he was and remains a threat to the RSS led-BJP government. It is quite clear the judiciary is not an autonomous entity rather it enforces decisions on the basis of what suits the needs of the government. The recently exposed Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud; involving Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are at large and facing zero consequences of stealing Rs. 13,500 crores from taxpayers of this country. It has been clear who supports Nirav Modi and his scam that started in 2009, just after the UPA government of Dr Manmohan Singh began. Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher is another example. The 2G spectrum scam which A. Raja has been acquitted because the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) “failed” to produce evidence. When compared these scams cost the regular taxpayer a lot more than the Fodder Scam. The scams of Defence weapons and vehicles put the country in a much more vulnerable position. Yet it is very rare to see the people behind scams get sentenced. If we scrutinised and studied scams both national parties: BJP and Congress are (upper-caste) brothers-in-arms.
Shiva Thorat has been working on documentaries on those phenomena which are considered as historical information on particular castes, individuals and important events. He has experience working with TISS (CEIAR, SMCS), Queen Mary University of London, SARAI, Sahapedia and Nijaat Collective. He is independently doing research on Mumbai and its intentionally ignored history and documenting it in formats like podcasts, documentaries, music videos and module designing. Currently he is a media producer at Centre for Education, Innovation and Action Research(CEIAR); an independent centre in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.