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Lalu asks Dalits to cast their caste

Saubhadra Chatterji  |  Kolkata/ Sonpur 

A loyal supporter offers him a chair at an impromptu meeting in Ballitola village. He refuses it aggressively, hurls a mouthful at the poor soul, pushing him aside.

Desperate to return to the 'gaddi' (chair) of the Chief Minister, Lalu Prasad is not ready to settle for anything less - least of all a red plastic chair in a village in Sonpur!

“I don’t have time to sit. I have come to you to say I am going to become the chief minister again. But you have to vote. Only shouting Zindabad won’t work. Remember, I have come to you after attending 11 public rallies today,” he addresses the crowd in a commanding voice.

This is vintage Lalu - the Yadav chieftain on the mission to mobilize his vote bank in the Yadav-dominated areas after the first two phases of polling witnessed a high turnout. Scores of men and women greet him with lanterns in hand as Prasad’s convoy roams inside the villages and stops to talk to them after every 50 meters. The former CM is self-assured and can afford to be angry here. At Sabbalpur village, his supporters got into a brawl with each other to get Prasad to another venue for an impromptu rally which Prasad refused.

Just an hour ago, on view is a different Lalu Prasad: He gets down from his Toyota Qualis and walks into Ambedkar Nagar village off the highway, a departure from his scheduled tour programme.

This is a Dalit-dominated village and Prasad needs to woo them back. He was the undisputed king of Dalits and other backward castes once. Today, Nitish Kumar is in power with their support and has coined the term Mahadalit to appeal to the caste equations.

The village, bereft of electricity, falls under Sonpur assembly constituency where Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi is contesting. Under a sky lit only by the moon, Lalu Yadav addresses the Dalits in front of a mud hut, with two supporters each holding a lantern and a torch. “Ensure not a single vote is wasted. Rabri Devi needs to win. All your problems will disappear,” he says.

In his own caste bastion, Lalu Prasad is still the king of hearts. “Whatever grudges we have against him are gone, now that Laluji has visited our village,” say villager in places like Rahar Diara, Jaitiya, Shahpur Diara. In his public rally at Parsa Village of Saran, the crafty politician stokes this caste pride: “Lalu made the backwards sit on the chairs. You used to take on the SPs and DMs. Now, you can’t even enter government offices. You have to salute officers now. As Lalu has become weak, there is no one to ask about Biharis in Delhi and Mumbai,” the CM says as the crowd roars.


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First Published: Wed, October 27 2010. 00:40 IST