Vulturo asks me to spell out my position on Laloo Pradad Yadav (LPY). A commentator on my last post accuses me of being ambivalent like any politician as my previous post vacillates from pro-Laloo to anti-Laloo and back again.
So let me make things more explicit. To me LPY is an anthropomorphism of the filth that is politics in India today—a system where people with criminal backgrounds are actively sought, where education decreases your chances of being successful, where the level of debate is on the lines of what you might expect in a brawl in some desi liquor adda , where corruption is flaunted extensively (yeh mera baap ka rajya hain…now screw me if you can) and where people are not immoral but amoral.
But LPY is more than this. He is a monster created by a media which despises and idolizes him in equal degree. Which is perfectly fine with LPY, who being a shameless megalomaniac and a canny politician loves the media play he gets.
He understands that a concomitant of the airtime he gets is that he has to play up to the image of a country bumpkin—hair coming out of his nose and ears, an idiotic haircut and speaking Hindi in a thick Bihari accent. We watch LPY for the same reason people watch “Jerry Springer” in the US—-because he looks like a clown, he is a freak— repelling and yet oddly magnetic. And his constituency can also empathize with him as their “dear son”.
It is this carefully cultivated image that has morphed him into a kind of genial teddy bear—–which is why sisters gift their dear brothers with a picture of Laloo, foolish, rural but yet oddly lovable, on it.
In reality, he is hardly that. Running Bihar by proxy like his personal fiefdom, he is a malignant presence under whom kidnapping has emerged as Bihar’s premier industry. The reason the fodder scam investigations fell through was because buildings housing evidence bizarrely suffered spontaneous combustion, witnesses vanished and officials found themselves transferred.
Though he is not the only one to blame for this, LPY has reduced Bihar to a barren wasteland that lies at the bottom of the list of Indian states when judged on various indices of progress. And he blames everyone but himself for that.
But then there is the other point—what was in my last post interpreted as “support”.
LPY is not the only bottomfeeder out there—he is part of a much larger problem. LPY’s only significance is that he is the most potent symbol of all that is wrong with the system.
However the demerit of LPY’s overpowering image is that other politicians, who are not as flamboyant or shameless, are able to pass underneath the radar.
As an example from my last post, when Lata Mangeskar brought out a CD singing songs of poems written by AB Vajpayee the media stayed silent. Why? Because the gesture maintained a veneer of propriety.
When Jyoti Basu’s biographer got a plum post (a VCship if I remember correctly), there were only minor rumblings from some media outlets in Bengal.
And then when some enterprising person composed Laloo Chalisa in Bihar and got many tangible blessings from Bihar’s first family , everyone went to town—laughing and shaking their heads at the shamelessness of LPY and his bunch of sycophants.
However in spirit, all three are the same. Yes the last one is more crude—but all of them concern “kissing ass.”
This is not support for Laloo. What I wanted to say was that “Yes LPY is bad but there are several who are equally bad if not worse. Except that they use polish to exalt themselves”.
The reason I say this is that many people may be rejoicing at LPY’s defeat. They should not. There are LPYs everywhere all over India—–except not all of them have 8 children and not all of them can milk cows and not all of them come on prime time talk shows. In Bihar itself, much of Nitesh Kumar’s support base contains disaffected members of LPY’s fan club. So it is rather naive to expect that anything will change.
As an example of the perpetuation of Laloo-ism, one of the first policy decisions that the Nitesh Kumar government makes is to remove references of LPY from Bihar school textbooks. Frankly, is that the principal problem in Bihar’s education system as of today?
What this points to is a bigger problem: the government is, in the coming months, going to spend an inordinate large amount of effort to diminish LPY’s persona through such poorly-prioritized initiatives rather than deal with more urgent challenges facing the state of Bihar–namely law and order and education.
I made a mistake. LPY and Rabri Devi will not be “back”. Because they never left Bihar in the first place.