In past couple of days, there is a synchronized narrative going on where the question ‘why does BJP fear Lalu so much?’ is being tossed around to make sure the hypothesis ‘BJP fears Lalu’ becomes an implied truth. Motley of journalists and trolls are repeating this, in an attempt to not only turn that hypothesis into truth, but to generate sympathy for Lalu Yadav, currently in hospital but under custody after being convicted in various corruption cases.
This sympathy for Lalu was tried right at the time he was convicted in the corruption cases, with Shekhar Gupta, the senior journalist of ‘coup’ fame, peddling the theory that Lalu was convicted because he belonged to a ‘lower caste’. Obviously, within no time, his theory came crashing down as the list of those convicted along with Lalu had many ‘upper caste’ accused too. But when has facts and data mattered for ‘liberals’?
This desperation to paint Lalu Yadav some saint who was wronged actually begets the real question – why do the self-declared liberals love Lalu so much?
The answer could appear simple.
Anti-BJP = Awesome
The ‘liberal’ crowd in India is basically a confused anti-BJP crowd, with most of them being anti-BJP because it’s not just ‘cool’ but rewarding to take an anti-BJP stand (or anti-Hindutva) in public life. Unfunny comedians become intellectuals while genocidal maniacs become artists, so a corrupt politician becoming a wronged saint is hardly surprising.
Why does this crowd hates BJP or Hindutva is another issue, and well, I have to concede that BJP as well as Hindutva groups have to share some blame for it, though the main reason is relentless vilification for decades by a well-oiled propaganda machinery.
However, Lalu is anti-BJP not due to some ideological commitment, but because of realpolitik.
Just think of it; isn’t it rather strange that this cool liberal crowd doesn’t feel the same sympathy and loyalty for Mulayam Singh Yadav, who got dozens of (unofficial accounts putting the numbers in hundreds) Kar Sevaks killed to save the Babri Masjid (Taj Mahal of secularism) and who let go his ego to ally with Mayawati to end the BJP rule and influence in Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state of India that often decides balance of power?
As compared to killing of Kar Sevaks, Lalu just got Advani arrested during the veteran BJP leader’s Ram Rath Yatra in 1990 – a ‘secular’ guy should give more numbers for the former act. Further, Lalu’s ego didn’t stop him from breaking Janta Dal, which was becoming a national force to reckon with.
Lalu breaking Janta Dal and alienating the likes of Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan actually strengthened the BJP while Mulayam did everything to weaken the BJP in the neighbouring state. At one point of time, BJP was appearing weaker than an already hopeless Congress in Uttar Pradesh, before the 2014 miracle happened.
Today, Mulayam Singh Yadav is isolated, is as much ‘victim’ of politics as Lalu, and is reportedly in bad health as well like Lalu, but the cool liberal dude doesn’t care about him. Because he suspects that Mulayam Singh Yadav (or his faction supposed to be led by Shivpal Yadav) may even align with the BJP. Netaji is unpredictable.
On the other hand, Lalu and his family is considered pure and steadfast on this count. They will never align with the BJP. But as I put earlier, Lalu is anti-BJP not due to some ideological commitment, but because of realpolitik.
Nitish Kumar could never really become a mass leader like Lalu and his charisma was limited to some selected circles – his own caste group and some allied groups, the urban crowd (thanks to improvement in law and order and some development), women (yes, he could create a new constituency), and in some Lutyens circles. Even Nitish Kumar realised his limitations, and that’s why he didn’t risk a three-cornered fight in the 2015 assembly elections.
Had he become as powerful as charismatic in Bihar as Lalu, and had Bihar too got three or four major political players with distinct messaging and supporting social groups as one sees in Uttar Pradesh, you never know that maybe Lalu and BJP could have been forming an alliance too or at least flirting with each other.
Therefore, to present Lalu as some committed soldier of secularism is as dishonest as anything the ‘liberal’ crowd does.
However, beyond this anti-BJP/anti-Hindutva ‘commitment’ of Lalu, the reason why the self-declared liberals love Lalu so much is because consciously or accidentally, Lalu has been able to replicate the way Gandhi family functions.
The Bihari Gandhi
If you observe, the liberal love for Lalu is no different from the love they have for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. They try to make sure that the crimes by both are covered and the culprits are actually paraded as martyrs.
As I had pointed briefly in an earlier article I wrote, Shabnam Hashmi, whose brother Safdar Hashmi – a communist playwright and theatre personality – was killed by Congress backed goons in broad daylight, but today she bats religiously for Congress even by spreading fake news to benefit the party.
Similarly, Kanhaiya Kumar, a JNU student ‘leader’ who has been giving hopes to some liberals as the next big thing, touches Lalu Yadav’s feet. The same Yadav, whose party goons killed Chandrashekhar Prasad, who was also a JNU student leader, in broad daylight.
The ‘Jungle Raj’ of Lalu is given context of social revolution and social churn, just as some try to give context to Emergency and paint how it was not so bad, or more recently, the way scam tainted regime of UPA-2 is being whitewashed.
The ecosystem appears almost full of guilt and desperate to undo the damage in both cases – oh my god, we got carried away and exposed Lalu Raj and Sonia Raj as corrupt (the former additionally being ‘criminal’), let’s make amends now as BJP benefitted.
How could Lalu secure this support of ecosystem? With Congress, it was due to Indira Gandhi, who could work out a Faustian bargain with the leftists in the 70s, allowing them to control academia and media. In return, these ‘intellectuals’ made sure that the dynasty was always protected. They would pretend to fight with Congress, but make sure the dynasty is not blemished.
Lalu too, in his later years, tried to please the same ecosystem. His ‘so-cute’ selfies with Lutyens journalists and his support to ideas that will have no resonance among his social base but will earn him brownie points among the ecosystem, bear testimony to that. And obviously, becoming an ally of the original dynasty came with the associated benefits.
Coincidentally, both the dynasties are now led by ‘youth’ leaders who are goofy and are often object of mockery. But the ‘liberals’ have no option but to love them. Essentially, it’s the self-interest of the ‘liberals’ – to see those people calling shots who have fed them well all these years – that makes them love the ‘secularism’ of Lalu Yadav.
And finally, this orchestrated attempt to paint Lalu as someone mighty whom the BJP fears no end, is actually manifestation of the fears of the ‘liberal’ crowd. They fear the BJP and they are now giving up on their hopes with new Lalus they created and flirted with – from Arvind Kejriwal to Kanhaiya Kumar.
The ecosystem is going back to their original hope – the dynasty.