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55, Chacha Laloo parties with kids

Patna, June 11: The 55th birthday of Laloo Prasad Yadav today turned out to be as much of a political show as his other public appearances.

From the time he became chief minister in 1990, the rhetoric of social justice has pervaded his birthday celebrations at 1 Anne Marg. But this time, the presence of slum children helped Laloo Prasad make a political point.

To the 100-odd children brought in for the function by social worker Anita Sinha, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief was chacha, oozing as much avuncular affection as Jawaharlal Nehru did in his time.

The former chief minister clearly did not mind the parallel. His “anti Congressism” a thing of the past, Laloo Prasad said: “What if I did not occupy the top chair in Delhi' Pataliputra was the seat of power in the past. I have ruled the same area in recent times. In what way am I less important'” he asked the media as he went about his Nehru-type birthday celebrations.

The function kicked off at 9.30 am. There was a long stream of visitors who had come to greet the leader. There were bouquets and slogans raised in his favour.

But the crowd soon had to make way for the children who had been standing at a distance. “Let them come in,” the RJD chief said. The children were not smartly-dressed youngsters clutching roses, but slum dwellers from Patna clad in their soiled clothes.

Namaste chacha,” said Arun Paswan, a sickly 10-year-old boy as he drew nearer to Laloo Prasad. As the leader held Arun’s hand affectionately and ruffled his hair, the other children chanted “Chacha Laloo zindabad” and rained flower petals on him.

Not finished yet, the children had another surprise up their sleeve: they offered Laloo Prasad a chocolate each. Touched, the politician returned them their gift, saying: “If you have brought it, I have tasted it. When you have no money to buy food, why buy chocolates for me,” he said.

RJD workers brought a 55-pound cake shaped into a temple — complete with a trident — a mosque and a church. Laloo Prasad sported a fez and a tilak. He wore a silk kurta and pyjama.

No Laloo celebration in Bihar is complete without some Bollywood representation. Adding glamour were actress and model Sonwar Kabeer along with half-a-dozen not-so-famous artistes. They danced at an evening function at the Nritya Kala Mandir, with Sonwar gushing: “I am a fan of Lalooji.”

Despite all the hype over the celebrations, Laloo Prasad said he did not remember his birthday. “When my elder brother took me to school, he decided my age on the basis of my height,” he said. The RJD chief added: “My birthday has come to be celebrated ever since I became chief minister.”

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