Lalu Prasad in the cowshed at his Delhi residence before heading to Parliament to present the railway budget. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Feb. 13: The Coromandel Express accident, a lesson in humility after all those safety boasts in his railway budget speech, lay a few hours into the future. Still, Lalu Prasad was able to summon enough humility in the Lok Sabha today.
Its a matter of great honour for me to work under leaders like Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the RJD chief told an astonished House.
Sonia, merrily thumping the desk at the railway ministers populist sops and giggling at his wisecracks, stopped for a moment and stared in disbelief.
This, after all, was coming from an ally, not a regular Congress sycophant, at a time the tug-of-war over seats was stretching the camaraderie within the ruling combine.
Lalu Prasad praised Sonias guidance and Manmohans leadership several times, the contrast with Amar Singhs recent personal attacks and threats impressing Congress leaders. If the wily RJD boss was planning to drive a hard bargain over seats, he could not have prepared the ground better.
After the charm offensive, not even his revelation that he hoped to be Prime Minister would have offended the Congress. Asked by reporters if he would again be railway minister after the polls, Lalu Prasad said: What will happen, where will I go, what God has destined and what is written on the forehead, anything can happen
. But, one day I will become the Prime Minister.
The humility even silenced enemies. Abandoning his usual harshness towards L.K. Advani, Lalu Prasad said: We have ideological differences but I respect Advaniji. If he has asked for a train from Gandhinagar, Ill oblige him.
The BJP members stopped shouting and waited for the announcement of the train. In vain, of course. Lalu Prasad wrapped up by saying: Oh, I forgot that Gandhinagar train: its missing from the list. But I will certainly provide it.
He even silenced the Left MPs from Bengal by saying all their demands would be met.
The humility didnt smother the trademark humour, though. Lalu Prasad teased the Left for breaking relations.
When the CPMs Basudev Acharya objected to a deletion from the list, he retorted: Kaatna mera kaam nahi hai; kaatne wala hansua hathora aapke paas hai (Cutting is not my business; you people possess the sickle and hammer).
As transport minister T.R. Balu kept passing on the budget papers to him, the RJD chief marvelled about the Lalu-Balu combine.
The humility, though, momentarily left him as he boasted: Haathi ko chust kar diya, cheetah bana diya (spruced up the white elephant and turned it into a leopard). And he boasted some more about railway safety.