Lalu Prasad’s supporters gather in front of Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Oct. 10: He may be within the confines of Birsa Munda Central Jail ever since his indictment in the fodder scam, but Lalu Prasad’s popularity graph seems to be soaring with every passing day.
Not only RJD supporters, but also ordinary village folk are making a beeline outside the jail every day to catch a glimpse of their leader.
And despite all odds, the former Bihar chief minister, who has been lodged there since the September 30 verdict, is also at his wittiest best, obliging all inmates and outsiders with his quick repartees.
Today, sources said, Lalu asked for a tailor. Jail staff sent one, a murder convict, to his upper division room inside the jail premises. Later the tailor confided he was over the moon that someone like Lalu sought his services.
Fruit sellers, offering pomegranates, dry fruits and coconuts, near the jail are a happy lot now. Visitors, who have been coming from far away places in Jharkhand and Bihar, have been carrying something or the other for their leader to show their love for him. The vendors, therefore, are doing brisk business.
The former railway minister’s fan following goes beyond the country’s border as even the international media are keeping tabs on his whereabouts. Yesterday, two journalists of New York Times — Allen Barry and Hari Kumar — were spotted outside the jail. They wanted to meet him, but weren’t allowed inside the jail.
“I have not seen such a sea of visitors before. VVIP prisoners, like former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, his Cabinet colleagues Anosh Ekka, Harinarayan Rai among others, have spent considerable time in the jail. Though they were from Jharkhand, none enjoyed such support as Lalu,” asserted a jail official, who is forced to spend time replying to media queries and entertaining visitors’ demands.
A jail doctor said he had seen several politicians and bureaucrats inside the jail, but Lalu was a class apart.
“He is a really tough man. Legal problems have not deterred him a bit. His health is good. He has been performing Durga path every morning since the start of Navratra and following a no-garlic, no-onion diet,” he said.
After a PIL was filed in Jharkhand High Court, alleging Lalu was violating jail norms by meeting people throughout the day, the RJD chief has been trying to maintain a low profile. He now meets guests only after 3 pm.