Lathis against trishuls

Published : May 23, 2003 00:00 IST

Interview with Laloo Prasad Yadav.

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav has managed to dominate the political discourse in Bihar despite all the odds stacked against him. Over the years, a series of corruption-related cases against him and incarceration in jail led to a number of his aides leaving the party and ganging up against him. All this, however, seemed to have helped him consolidate his hold on Bihar society, and a formidable alliance of Muslims and Yadavs that he forged has frustrated his detractors. He has his ears glued to the ground and thrives on an ability to strike a chord with the masses. Laloo Yadav evokes strong passions among the people of Bihar, so much so that you are either with him or against him. The April 30 rally in Patna was yet another instance of the RJD chief's ability to provide sheer rhetoric, the halo of a political campaign. Laloo Yadav spoke to V. Krishna Ananth at his 1 Anne Marg residence on April 29, the evening before the rally. Excerpts:

What is the rally all about?

The BJP is a communal party. But it is just the mukhouta [mask] and the real forces behind it are the RSS, the VHP and the Shiv Sena. These forces are bent on destroying the country. They have been trying to do this and have succeeded in the attempt to an extent with what they did in Gujarat.

But what is the immediate context of tomorrow's rally?

The context is that the BJP has failed on all fronts. It promised a government free from fear and corruption but ended up setting new records of corruption. They charged me with eating up the fodder meant for cattle... the investigations are on and the truth will come out. But what have they done? They have eaten out of the money meant to purchase coffins for slain soldiers. The whole world watched and found Bangaru Laxman counting currency wads.

So, the rally is against corruption...

Not only corruption. It is about the BJP's history. Vajpayee was an approver in the case involving freedom fighters in Gwalior in 1942. His statement before the Magistrate at that time led to a whole lot of people being sent to prison. Such a person is the Prime Minister. Similarly, the philosophy of Hindutva, which is the basis of sectarian strife, was first formulated by `Veer' Savarkar. He sought pardon before the British thrice when he was in the Cellular Jail...

What is the immediate context of all these issues with regard to Bihar and the April 30 rally?

You should try and understand the issue first. Savarkar was tried in the case relating to the conspiracy to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. Is it not a fact? And now they have installed the portrait of Savarkar in the Central Hall of Parliament and that too right in front of that of Mahatma Gandhi. The coming generations and visitors from abroad will come there and as they move around the Central Hall, they will ask whose portrait it is. They will be told, this is Savarkar, who sought pardon from the British thrice, and he was one of those who conspired in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. And when they ask who Gandhi is, we will say he is the Father of the Nation. Clad in a dhoti and a loin cloth, holding a lathi in his hand. He lived like an ordinary Indian.

Is that the issue before the rally?

Not just that. The NDA government has prostrated before the United States. We all wanted the Vajpayee government to condemn the military action by the U.S. Not just Laloo Yadav but all the parties opposed to the BJP, including some that are in the NDA were of this view. Yet, what did the government do? It prostrated before the U.S. India is a big country with strong democratic roots. We told Vajpayee to call up all the world leaders and convey to them that there should be united pressure against the U.S. India should have taken the lead in that and rallied all the nations and had a session of the Security Council to resolve against the U.S. action.

The Security Council could not stop the U.S. even otherwise. How could India have done anything about it?

Why bother about that? China, France and other countries did not coordinate their actions. India must have done that and Vajpayee failed on that count. This is slavery. What will happen when the same fate meets India in future? We have been isolated in the comity of nations. This would not have happened if we were in power at the Centre

The challenge is not just in Bihar but in other States too. What can the RJD do about that?

In all the critical periods of crisis in the nation, the beginnings of change were made from Bihar. This is a fact of history. The leadership for change in all instances came from Bihar. The whole nation is now looking at Bihar. People across the world are waiting to see tomorrow's lathi rally. That is the importance. People all over will sit in front of their television sets to know what is happening at the lathi rally.

Why are you asking your cadre to carry lathis to the rally?

Laloo Yadav's party will give a response to the VHP's trishul with the lathis. The lathi, after it is seasoned with oil, will be strong enough to break the trishul. We will show it from now.

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