The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo lends weight to fill party’s empty coffers

Patna, Nov. 2: Last night, Laloo Prasad Yadav might have wanted to weigh more than his 74 kg when party workers weighed him in at Rs 16,000 in coins.

The chief of the cash-strapped Rashtriya Janata Dal was amused at Vijay Singh Yadav’s method of contributing to the party coffers.

Invited to a dinner at the Rajya Sabha MP’s home at Karbigha, on the outskirts of Patna, Laloo Prasad was first garlanded with marigolds and then persuaded to squat in one dish of a weighing scale.

As Bhojpuri folk songs in his praise blared in the background and slogans were raised, Re 1, Rs 2 and Rs 5 coins were poured into the other dish of the scale.

After 10 minutes of suspense while Laloo Prasad’s fiscal value hung in the balance, the scales evened out and the coins were counted. “Next time I visit your house, weigh me in silver,” he said as party workers burst into laughter.

Vijay Singh’s balancing act was in response to his chief’s call to fill the party coffers through a donation drive. Laloo Prasad had recently told his men to pay him a fee if they invited him to any party programme. The money thus collected would go to the RJD.

With the general elections due next year, party leaders across the state are growing aware that the RJD cannot survive on the strength of their chief’s political weight alone.

Though Laloo Prasad may be worth his weight in gold for his party, Vijay Singh decided to check out his leader’s value — in currency — in a bid to inspire others. “I hope my party workers will step into my shoes and help restore the party’s fiscal health,” he said.

Vijay Singh need not worry because he is not the first to weigh the party chief against material wealth and so he may not be the last.

During the last state polls in 2000, Laloo Prasad’s supporters had weighed him in silver, brass and stainless steel. Some others had offered gold and a silver crown, too.

The RJD may well need more of the metals as its kitty is nearly empty despite being in power for three consecutive terms. The crunch is so bad that Laloo Prasad has instructed party district committees to donate Rs 1.21 lakh to the coffers.

For the RJD chief, even the Election Commission’s decision to fix poll expenses at Rs 25 lakh per party is no dampener at all. “It is an extremely impractical proposition,” he told party workers.

Early this morning, he called the party’s state treasurer, Rakesh Ranjan, and handed him the money he got from Vijay Singh. “The party will need it,” he told him.

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