| Laloo Prasad Yadav
Triveni (Nepal), Feb. 16: For once, Laloo Prasad Yadav’s wisecracks failed to keep his audience glued to their seats.
It wasn’t anything in the air, though his party’s national executive at the Balmikinagar forest resort began on Valentine’s Day.
It was the small foreign goods market, flanked on all sides by mini-bars manned by girls, that drew the partymen to Nepal’s Triveni district, 2 km from Bihar across Narayani Gandak river.
Rashtriya Janata Dal MLAs, ministers and leaders trooped to the market for a taste of “foren” drinks and “foren saman” (foreign goods). Laloo’s relentless rhetoric against multinationals failed to rub off on them.
The national executive meeting wound up this morning, but the crowd continued to pour into the Nepal market in cars and buses, braving a dusty road along the river.
Laloo Prasad took the opportunity to amend his party constitution, abolishing the rule that prohibited election of a president for more than two terms.
He also managed to push through a resolution against the BJP-led Centre as resentment against his party’s rule continued to spill on to the streets.
Nothing, however, kept Laloo’s leaders and supporters tied to the venue of the meeting. Their Boleros, Scorpios and Qualis’ crawled to the crowded Nepal market and straight to the mini-bars. Around noon, “Kurkie” rum bottles and Virgin and Tiger beer bottles — going for a huge premium — flew off the bar shelves and were emptied down throats.
Among those who made a beeline for the “fair” were top RJD district leaders; at least six ministers’ official cars were seen.
Party general-secretary Ramkripal Yadav had an explanation ready.
“The curiosity of our workers about neighbouring Nepal and a desire to have some fun at the end of the day may have drawn them (to the market) but this is not uncommon,” he said.
The traders cashed in on the drift for some market walls were plastered with posters of Laloo Prasad and chief minister Rabri Devi.
“We rarely get this flow of customers as the market has not more than 12 good shops. And they rarely have good stock,” said shopowner Narendra Thapa.
“Two days ago, we were briefed about the possible surge of customers from India because of Laloo Prasad’s political convention. All we did was flood the shops with consumer items,” he said.
According to Thapa, foreign goods, mainly from Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China, worth Rs 12 lakh were sold on the first two days of the meeting. Stocks of cameras, radios, musicplayers, torches and woollens ran dry as these were among the favourites. Most shops were restocked by midnight as the shopowners got their agents to glut the market with goods.
“The bar business, too, had an all-time high,” said bar-owner Sharda Pradhan. “During the last two days (of the meeting), we bagged business worth Rs 10 lakh,” she said.
In all the fun, some of the sozzled partymen did not forget their leader. They often broke into practised slogans of “Laloo Yadav zindabad”.
For the traders, it was not all cash and frolic though. Some of their customers left without paying while others made indecent proposals to bar girls. Pradhan cited two such instances.
“The bar girls were subjected to teasing in Hindi,” said Dinesh Singh, an Indian shopowner settled in Nepal.
Nepal police, already on the edge after Maoist attacks, had a tough time controlling the overflow of visitors to the market.
They allowed in Indians only till 6 pm every day after a rudimentary check. But hundreds of impatient RJD workers crowded the entry point till 6.30 pm waiting for a chance to slip in.
The Nepal Royal Police had to deploy forces along the border to maintain normality during curfew hours after 6 pm.