|Lalu Prasad’s eldest daughter Misa Bharati (in picture) was glued to tv all morning with mother Rabri Devi, a relative said. Rabri never left the house.
“When news of Laluji’s conviction flashed, Rabriji broke down. Misa tried to calm her but she kept crying. Rabriji slammed Nitish Kumar, saying there was a conspiracy against Saheb. She said she would go to the people to seek justice.”
Chief minister Nitish declined comment.
Phulwaria, (Gopalganj), Sept. 30: When the news broke this morning, one decision was unanimous. The whole village would skip lunch.
A “tragedy” had befallen their “ablest son” and no smoke would rise from any oven.
“Hum log aaj khana nahin khaingein…. Chulha nahin jalega…. Allah se dua karengein (we will not take lunch. Ovens will not be lit. We will pray to Allah),” said Sagir Hussein, who sells vegetable at Gopalganj bazaar.
Morning had broken on Phulwaria, Lalu Prasad’s native village in north Bihar’s Gopalganj district, in a restless haze of anxiety. Aunt Phuljharo Devi, 79, older cousins Indrasen Yadav, 80, and Harishankar Yadav, 70; and nephew Ramanand Yadav, 42, had gathered under a 100-year-old peepal tree in front of the RJD chief’s home since 9am.
Youths milled a little distance away, mobiles pressed to their ears for news of what was happening at the court in Ranchi, over 500km away.
The uncertainty ended at 11am: the court had pronounced Lalu Prasad guilty in a fodder scam case. “It is like a tragedy befalling the most efficient member of our family,” said Wakil Ansari, 55, a labourer.
Aunt Phuljharo couldn’t hold back tears. “He is like my son, a piece of my heart. He has done no harm to anyone,” said the unlettered woman.
Villagers of Phulwaria, at least most of them, don’t understand what the scam is all about. “I don’t know what crime he has done,” said cousin Indrasen.
So, as the news spread that the court had sent Lalu Prasad to judicial custody, most residents of this 700-home village of Yadavs, Muslims, Brahmins, Bhumihars and Baniyas retreated into “mourning” for a son whose bond with the village was more emotional than political.
In his 36-year-old career as a lawmaker, Lalu Prasad has seldom had a political relationship with either his village or his native district. He made his debut in the Lok Sabha in 1977 from nearby Saran. He won from Saran last time too. In between he contested from Madhepura (for the Lok Sabha) and from Sonepur, Raghopur and Danapur for the Assembly.
“Laluji’s relationship with Phulwaria is more emotional than political,” said resident Ram Biswas Dubey, recalling how the former chief minister, carrying food packets on his head, visited every home in the village on his brother Gulab Yadav’s shraadh two years ago. “He is like a bhagwan to us,” said a boy.
Today, all eyes are on a temple. Their “bhagwan” had got it built in the nineties, when he still lorded over Bihar. “We saw him during the last Dussehra. We will wait for him this Dussehra (beginning October 10). He has come to us every Dussehra,” said Prakash, a Class X student, pointing to the Durga temple.
The Congress took care not to reveal its mind on Lalu Prasad.
“There should not be political reactions on a
judicial process,” said communications chief Ajay Maken. Spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit
said the A.K. Antony sub-committee on elections was dealing with alliances and it was too early to comment on joining forces with the RJD.
The high command did not reveal its cards but party general secretary Digvijaya Singh hinted: “I am sad... Lalu Prasad Yadavji has been found guilty... he has been a trusted and an old partner of the Congress party.”
The BJP, claiming to
be the “original crusader” in the fodder scam,
said the verdict proved nobody, however high and mighty, was above the law.
Arun Jaitley credited the outcome to “public-spirited litigants who put the process of law into motion” despite alleged attempts to derail
“It has taken 17 years for justice to be done... When conviction appeared to be inevitable... the shameless UPA
government approved an ordinance,” Jaitley said. “Today, we have all
understood why this
ordinance was brought.”