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Home > News > Columnists > Virendra Kapoor

Laloo! Laloo!

August 14, 2003

Laloo Prasad Yadav, the seemingly simple-minded rustic from Bihar, was the toast ofPakistanwhen he visited that country at the invitation of the South Asian Free Media Association last week.There were far more suave and sophisticated, far more educated, members among the 30-oddIndian MPs who participated in the three-day conference in Islamabad organised by the association, but the focus was always on the former Bihar chief minister.

Ordinary Pakistanis and theelite alike could not get enough of this self-confessed simpleton. He wasmobbed by fawning men, women and children at airports, hotels, bazaars and conference halls inPakistan.They wanted to be photographed with him,shake his hand orget his autographs on pieces of paper hurriedly rustled up from somewhere.

PresidentPervezMusharraf acknowledged the Laloo phenomenon in Pakistan when at a meeting with theSouth Asian Free Media Associationdelegation he told Laloo,'you are such a hit in my country.'

The most remarkable thing was that contrary to his carefully cultivated image of a simpleton,Laloodisplayeduncanny common sense throughout his triumphant trip to Pakistan. He never struck a false note,never said anything that might displeasemandarins of the Indian Foreign Office and not once did he rufflethe feathers of his Pakistani hosts. His charm offensive won everyone around, though he very cogentlyrepresented India's case on Kashmir and other issues which have for long bedeviled relations between thetwo neighbours. Mixing his earthy humour withrobust common sense he conveyed his message.

When someone reminded the Pakistan president that the leader of the Mutahida Majilis-i-Amal, MaulanaFazalur Rehman, too had paid a successful visit to India recently and asked him whether he would like toexchange the Pak Opposition leader with Laloo,Musharraf played safe.Amidst loud laughterfrom everyone present he said,'You keep Rehman in your country for six months and we will keep Laloo in ours forhalf-a-year.'

Nobody felt more resentful of Laloo Yadav's popularity in Pakistan than someCongress MPs. While somehid their feelings, the Congress MP from Bangalore, Margaret Alva, letfly at the organisers for what she considered was a slight to her status in the Indian polity.Thisdisplay of bad behaviour came at the meeting withMusharraf. Minutes before the general showed up, she angrily pointed out to senior Pakistan ministers that she belonged to a party which had110 members in the Lok Sabha while they accordedpride of place in the seating arrangement to LalooYadav whose party had but only seven MPs. Musharraf's ministers, including Foreign Minister KhurshidMehmood Kasuri, did not know what to do.

Noticing the embarrassing dilemma for the hosts, a very gracious Laloo Yadavand his fellow RJD MP, Prem Gupta, voluntarily gaveuptheir chairs and moved towards the onesearmarked for Alvaand her party colleague. Even though Laloo did not earn as much as a polite thank you from Alva,hewon over the hearts of everyone present in the ornate hall in the PresidentialOffice withhis magnanimous gesture. As he told everyone around, in the bargain he got "a better seat" since the one given to him earlierhad him sitting atMusharraf's side while now he faced the general.

The Indian delegation includeda 'model couple' which evoked sneering comments fromfellow delegates. Former Union minister RamVilas Paswan --nowpresident of hisminuscule Lok Janashakti Party -- went to Pakistan with his wife and brotherSukdeo Paswan, a member of the LokSabha in his own right. While the junior Paswan never opened his mouth atthe three-dayconference,what Ram Vilas said was embarrassing.Mrs Paswan attractedconsiderable notice too with her expensivesarees and jewels --not repeating them from one meal to another! Many Pakistanis wonderedifshe was a former film star and werespeechless on learning that her husbandwas a self-confessed leader of the Dalits whose full-time vocation was politics.

In sharp contrast to Laloo Yadav, Paswan wasoften indiscreet, choosingto inflict on the other delegates his self-assumed greatness. He boasted for the nth time that he held the worldrecord for having won his parliamentary seat twice with record margins and that he had given up aministership in the Vajpayee Cabinet to protest the communal carnage in Gujarat. He also told a Pakistan televisionchannel that some of theterrorists operating in Kashmir were not foreigners, but locals, a claim contrary to the Indian position.

PresidentMusharraf is so sure of himself that he welcomes any opportunity to interact with the media.Weather-beaten bureaucrats in his government are by nature chary of the media andtry to protect himfrom prying questions. So it was in Islamabad whenhis minders soughtto keep most of the Indian media out of themeeting withIndian MPs.Later, whensomehow the media smuggled itself in, the mindersinsistedthey'observe' the exchange of views between theMPs and the general insilence.

When the general was told of these restrictions by a visiting Indian newsman, heimmediately declared that they were free to ask him whatever they wanted to.Instead of theone hourhe waswas originally meantto spend with the Indian MPs andmediahespent well over two hours, answering all their questions and supplementaries freely. Remember the last timeanIndian dignitarymet the media and fielded all its questions?

DidLaloo Prasad Yadav's presence detract from the serious business atthe SAFMA conference?Which was to discuss threadbare the questions of Understanding, Confidence-building and Conflict resolutionbetween the two South Asian nations. By common consent, Laloo's presence made theconferencea page one affair. Usually such conferences are scantily reported -- and in some obscure corner of thenewspapers. This conference made headlines onPakistani televisionandin itsnewspapers on all three days. Though Laloo'spresence was a common thread, the seriousness of the issues discussedwas alsobrought out in thereportage. Admittedly, without the blessings of the powers that be in Islamabad, such a conference would nothave been possible.

Laloo being Laloo -- despite his serious vein at the conference and his articulation of the Indian case in avery cogent andearthy manner --could not help regaledelegates and other inviteeswith his trademark wit and humour.At the inaugural ceremony, when a BJP MP read out the messagefrom Prime Minister Vajpayee and a Congress MP read out Sonia Gandhi's message wishingtheconference success,Laloo brought the house down when he ended his cleverly worded extempore speech,saying"Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi ne bhi is conference ko goodwillmessage bheja hain"(Bihar ChiefMinister Rabri Devi too has sent a message of goodwill to the conference).

SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam had a problem pronouncing Laloo's surname, insisting on callinghim Laloo Prasad Yaadein instead of Yadav. That annoyed Laloo. When his turn came to speak, he corrected Alam,saying that being called Yaadein instead of Yadav wasnew for him though back home many Indians calledhim Laallo (meaningsimpleton). Later when an Indian newsman askedifhe had heard the joke about him solving the Kashmir problem, the RJD boss readily admitted thatindeed hehad. According to the joke,Laloooffered Kashmir to Musharrafprovided the general also accepted Bihar as a bonus.No, thank you, the general said :-))and told Laloo to keep Kashmir with India.

Virendra Kapoor was a member of the media team that accompanied the Indian parliamentary delegation to Pakistan last week

Image: Uday Kuckian

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Number of User Comments: 7


Kudos to Laloo the Bihari, You have done a great job presenting your country in a firm and clear way filled with humor. You have ...


Sub: How can a fodder eater be a problem solver?

hi, i am totally dissapointed by the way you have projected laloos image. have you forgotten the fodder scam, the common man's money wasted like ...

Posted by deepti malhan

Sub: Laloo in Pakistan

Who is this guy Virendra Kapoor? He seems to be a sycophant of the RJD supremo. Don't they know the countless number of scams, kidnappings ...

Posted by Vivek Ranjan

Sub: bihar illness

Sir, Bihar was never known to be a developing or a better administered state since independence, and why should we blame only laloo for it, ...

Posted by vijay

Sub: Immature Margaret Alva

Margaret Alva's outburst is shameful for India. I don't know whether Congress High Command thinks so or views it as an expression of party-loyalty. Thank ...

Posted by Sharad Korde, Thane.



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