A resurgence of the RJD has seen a comeback of Lalu Prasad jokes and wisecracks that amused people in Bihar’s complex, caste-heavy political terrain and made him famous outside. In his ancestral village Phulwaria in Gopalganj, a frequently heard anecdote is about his mother who passed away in 1991. In 1990, after the RJD won the assembly elections, Lalu proudly broke the news to his mother that he had become chief minister. His mother’s nonchalant reaction was: “What is the big deal? You have not got a government job after all.”
A statue of Lalu’s mother Marchhia Devi stands tall in the village and a plaque below reads: “It was Lalu Prasad’s mother who was a constant source of inspiration for him to work for social justice to backward and uplift of Dalits”. This has been the key theme in Lalu’s politics for years.
With RJD fortunes looking up, Phulwaria villagers are upbeat. “We always voted for him, even when he was down and out. This time, we see his political revival. RJD’s alliance partner Congress is contesting from this reserved seat (Gopalganj). The village will support Congress candidate Jyoti (she uses no surname),” says Santosh Gupta, an unemployed youth who depends on a few bighas of land for sustenance.
JD(U) has fielded Anil Ram and BJP Janak Ram in Gopalganj, which became a reserved seat after delimitation. Phulwaria has about 1,200 OBC, EBC and upper caste voters.
After JD(U) pushed RJD out of power and Nitish Kumar became chief minister, roads and power supply had been improving. In Phulwaria, villagers have a different story to tell. They say the road from Mirganj town to Phulwaria is damaged and power supply is good enough to charge mobile phones.
Abhay Yadav, Lalu’s neighbour, says: “During Laluji’s rule, we used to get power for 16 hours but after Nitish became CM we get it for two hours. Power supply is only good enough to charge mobile phones.”
“We got our identity because of Lalu Prasad. So what if he has not fulfilled several expectations, we can never desert him,” said Abhay adding that several youths got jobs because of the RJD leader who last visited the village before his conviction in the fodder scam.
Though Lalu Prasad does not own any property at the village, sons of his eldest brother Mangru Yadav live in the two ancestral houses 150 metre apart. Mangru Yadav’s son Shyama Yadav lives in the house outside which the statue of Lalu’s mother stands. Another son Ramanand lives in the house built during Lalu’s initial years in politics.
Neither house has been revamped or remodelled. “It is not necessary these houses should look extraordinary. Simplicity has its charm,” says Ramanand Choudhary, a friend of Lalu.
Recalling their childhood, Choudhary said kabaddi and gilli danda were their favourite sport and there had been many a disagreement between them over a finer point or other during a game. “Today, when I see him leading the party campaign singlehandedly, my heart goes out to him. He has always been a big fighter,” says Rajesh Kumar, a farmer, sitting in front of his house amidst grains, and drying dung cake used as fuel in villages.