Writer and journalist Nalin Verma who co-authored Lalu Prasad Yadav’s autobiography —Gopalganj to Raisina —talks with indianexpress.com about the idea behind the book, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief’s political journey, his family and how the Lok Sabha elections 2019 is being fought in Bihar in the absence of Lalu. Excerpts:
Whose idea it was to bring out an autobiography?
I have been a political journalist for the last 30 years and have known Lalu Prasadji and many other top politicians in Bihar like Nitish Kumar and Sushil Kumar Modi, personally and professionally. I belong to the same geographical region as Laluji. While Phulwariya is in Gopalganj, I come from Siwan. My village is only about 25-30 km from Laluji’s village. That way, I knew his family and his mother.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, I wrote some stories on Lalu Prasad quoting his mother. That somehow got me connected with him. He also knows my family members. Regarding this particular book, it was about 7-8 years ago, when he was a railway minister, that we discussed it mutually. He had stated lightly that ‘I want to write something. Will you help me?’ It evolved like that. I think it was during the last Lok Sabha elections that it started taking shape. Laluji was campaigning and I was a senior editor in the Telegraph. When I was covering the elections, and he told me that he had nobody in mind but me for the book. I was already writing something for Rupa at that time, so it was easy for me to connect to that publisher. Then, in three years, it happened.
What is that one thing that is still unknown to most of us about Lalu Yadav as a person and politician?
Laluji is an undiluted politician. He has a charm, a rustic element and earthiness. When you meet him, he will ask you things like how old are you, when are you getting married etc. He is a very clear-hearted person.
Secondly, he is a very helpful person. It is very difficult to develop proximity with big leaders. But somehow if you manage to become close with him, and go to me when you are in trouble, he will go out of the way to help you. He genuinely wants to help the poor. He is pained whenever he sees a poor man in tatters. He might have helped lakhs and thousands of people. See, if Lalu Prasad comes here now, it does not matter if he is in jail or that he is convicted, thousands of people will gather around him. People say that whenever he gives speeches, it makes them laugh. That happens because of his individual connect with the people.
In a way, Lalu is not a man of the system. He breaks the system when required. For instance, as a CM he would go on the streets in freezing nights, and if he saw any poor shivering he would order to get the shop opened and bring blankets for the needy. The bills would be paid later through official documentation. This makes Lalu distinct and unconventional.
Do you think the revolutionary student leader from Bihar’s Gopalganj still continues to hold out hope for the marginalised or the backward classes?
Yes, I think Lalu holds out hope even if he is not physically present. He started off as a genuine revolutionary and his idea of revolution will continue. He is a ray of hope and will continue to be, in whatever situation it is. One can’t just shackle his idea.
How do you see Tejashwi Yadav’s rise as the successor of Lalu Yadav’s political regime?
Tejashwi has a long way to go. He has just begun. He is a first-time MLA. He has got the opportunity. And, as of now, predicting his future course of action will be speaking like an astrologer, which we are not. He will have to show and we will see how he goes about something.
What are the challenges before RJD in Lok Sabha and upcoming Assembly polls in Bihar?
RJD, or the party that Lalu made, has always faced stiff challenges because Lalu is for the minorities, for the marginalised sections. But because the marginalised sections have not become the mainstream section, the challenges are still there.
Since Lalu Prasad is not active in the political scenario, how do you see his family members coming together like Misa, Tej Pratap, Rabri Devi and Tejashwi?
It is still very early phases. They are still young and learning. It is a people’s thing. It’s not like if you will appear in the examination, you will pass it. People will have to give them the certificate elections after elections and keeping their performance in mind. So, I can’t say right now how they are doing, let this election result come, after that there is assembly election next year.
Central agencies like ED, CBI are investigating cases against Lalu Yadav and his family, how are they dealing with this?
ED, CBI, police, judiciary, they are all recognised agencies. Lalu Prasad has been convicted in 3-4 cases. He has challenged the same in the high court. I can only say that these are the initial things. We should not describe someone as a convict because an agency has charged them in certain cases. And he has been convicted by the lower court. So, as of now, I don’t say all these things are wrong or right, the process is still on. So let the final judgment come out.
Who is the current troubleshooter in the family?
Senior leaders like Shivanand Tiwary, Jagadanand Singh and Raghuvansh Prasad might be working as troubleshooters in the party because they have a long association with Lalu Prasad ji. They have seen the emergence of the party. So, I think in the time of crisis, these senior people might be working as a troubleshooter or as a guide to Tejashwi.
Which way is Bihar going to polls in 2019?
It is definitely not going the 2014 way. Every election has its own story. At that time, Narendra Modi ji was a fresh face in 2014. And what PM Modi promised, somehow there was no reason for the people not to believe him at that time because he was new, he was a performer in Gujarat. Now, this is a wave-less election. People now know all the players in the field..