Ranchi, Oct. 1: What is perhaps uppermost on convicted RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s mind is not whether the Congress has given up on him as a spent force and will now cosy up to the JD(U), but whether Birsa Munda Central Jail in Hotwar will arrange a fridge in his room for his eye drops and medicines.
Found guilty of embezzling crores in the fodder scam case by a CBI court yesterday and awaiting his quantum of sentence on Thursday, 65-year-old Lalu, also stripped of his MP designation, is making himself at home at the upper division room in the central jail.
The room measuring 10ft by 10ft has a bed, a table and chairs, a television that beams government-owned channels and an attached bath. New curtains were put up yesterday in his honour.
This morning, Lalu also got a host of newspapers to read, which “made him smile”, according to a jail source, possibly as he made all the headlines.
Since 8.30am today, the jail room also became a baithak-khana as a steady stream of supporters — all braving the incessant rain — started calling on him with a host of gifts ranging from the Bhagwat Gita, to food items, including fruits, and bouquets.
But the seasoned politician, who knows he has a protracted battle ahead of him to keep his party afloat, is making health his priority.
A jail doctor, who said Lalu told him and his colleagues that his first night at Birsa jail was “comfortable”, added the former Bihar chief minister asked if a fridge could be arranged for him in his room to store his medicines.
The jail hospital and kitchens have refrigerators, not rooms. Officials so far are noncommittal about Lalu’s request for a fridge.
Lalu also wants his eyes checked by noted city ophthalmologist Bharti Kashyap.
Lalu also asked for a helper-cook who would double up as a malishwallah (masseur) when required.
Yesterday, after Lalu reached jail, he got his blood pressure checked. The relief on his face was visible when it read 140/80. Citing eye problems, he ordered two eye drops Combigan and Refresh Tear). Lalu also asked jail officials to arrange a strip of Metacin for fever and body ache, just in case.
He cooked food yesterday assisted by a co-prisoner in one of the upper division room converted as a makeshift kitchen for the VVIP inmate. The exact menu for yesterday’s dinner couldn’t be known, though RJD MLA and Cabinet minister in the Hemant Soren government Suresh Paswan, who visited him today, said it was simple dal-roti.
He also ensured his favourite gram (chana) was soaked in water yesterday night. He had ghughni (a gram curry) for breakfast today.
In the row of upper division rooms, Lalu’s neighbours include R.K. Rana (former RJD MP) and Jagdish Sharma (formerly of the RJD, now an JD-U MP), convicted in the fodder case. Infamous for his involvement in the less famous medicine scam, former drug controller of Jharkhand Madan Mohan Sharma is also lodged here.
Recently, former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, his two aides Anosh Ekka and Harinarayan Rai and high-profile babus were granted bail, which emptied some upper division rooms. “The bail order of some VIPs helped us lodge Laluji and others comfortably,” said a jail official.
Former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra, also convicted in the fodder scam, was shifted yesterday to a RIMS cottage on health grounds.
Convicted IAS officers Julius Beck and Phulchand Singh — two others got interim bail yesterday — are lodged in the jail’s general ward with tainted former Ranchi mayor Rama Khalkho.
Supporters who visited Lalu at Birsa jail in the visitor’s room said he looked “normal”.
The first to arrive this morning was minister of social welfare, women and child development and RJD MLA Annapurna Devi around 8.30am, came with tiffin boxes according to jail officials, and stayed till 10.13am. “He is calm and composed. He is also confident of coming out of this political conspiracy soon,” she said. She denied bringing any tiffin. “Who said so? I didn’t get any tiffin box,” she said.
Senior aide Raghuvansh Prasad Singh was more forthcoming. “Unhone Bhagwad Gita mangwaya tha jo main leke jaraha hoon. Laluji filhaal tagda hain aur chintit nahin hain. Hum sab unke saath hai. (He requested for the Bhagwat Gita, which I’ve got. Laluji is fit and not at all worried. We all are with him),” Singh, who came at 10.08am and was with Lalu for 40 minutes, said.
Tourism minister Suresh Paswan also described Lalu as tagda. “He told us to keep each and every worker motivated for the big fight in the near future,” added Paswan, who came around 11.15am with a coterie, carrying bouquets.
IG (prisons) Shailendra Bhushan stressed the jail manual was not violated. “Contrary to media reports, no prison rule regarding visitors or food or facilities has been violated. He (Lalu) is a VIP inmate and entitled to certain privileges,” he said.