Patna, Oct. 8: He is used to flexing his muscles. Today, he did it with guns.
Dadan Yadav, a wrestler-turned-minister in the Rabri Devi government who likes to call himself Pahalwan, has been grabbing headlines in the local media for his continuing spat with his senior colleague, excise minister Shivanand Tiwari.
Tired of the verbal duel with Tiwari, an MLA from his home district Buxar, Dadan lined up a show of strength at Patna’s S.K. Memorial Hall, where about 500 of the few thousand loyalists who had gathered brandished rifles and vowed to stand by him.
As Dadan, who is state minister for commercial taxes, vowed to “fight the enemies of the country with physical strength, weapons and political strategy”, the gunmen flashed their weapons.
They flanked him on stage as long as the meeting continued. “No one can match us,” Dadan thundered, though he stopped short of a direct attack on Tiwari. But he left no one in doubt when he said: “I don’t want to take his name.”
The official reason for the meet was to revive the legacy of Mahavali Vir Lorik Ahir, a former wrestler, in the villages of Bihar. Dadan has been trying to convince Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav to release funds for akharas (training centres for wrestlers).
The akhara culture, he says, would help weed out caste hatred. He also wants a statue of Vir Lorik Ahir installed in Delhi.
Although Laloo Prasad had at first shown interest, he now refuses to take Dadan seriously. But Dadan is not giving up. He sent a personal letter to his supporters in Banka and Buxar, asking them to reach Patna with all their “samans” (a euphemism for weapons).
His supporters responded. “After I got the letter, I thought I must reach Patna for Pahalwanji,” said Umran Singh, a 52-year-old from Chausi village of Ara, a double-barrel gun slung from his shoulder. “Rifles and guns are our best securities.”
Bhagawan Singh, an ex-armyman from Karansarai village of Buxar, carried a police rifle. “We came here to boost the morale of our leader Dadan Pahalwan,” he said.
“He is formidable to his enemies,” said Lallal Yadav, another wrestler. “He can floor them with one hard knock.”
Dadan, however, slipped out quietly when some photographers reached the venue of the meeting. Some of those less loyal in the crowd said he was scared that the RJD boss might pull him up if his photograph with gunmen appeared in dailies.
“Kyunki rajniti me sabse bara pahalwan to Lalooji hai (the strongest wrestler in politics is none but Laloo Prasad),” said Laxman Yadav, one of those who had come from Buxar.