| Laloo Prasad Yadav
Patna, Dec. 4: Ten marks for knowing your Laloo Prasad, and you’d better get it right — it’s a test of how fast you can think.
If flattering Laloo Prasad Yadav was so long the favourite pastime of Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders, the sycophancy has now spilled over into the domain of education. Yesterday, at a board examination on Hindi, Class VIII students were set questions to test their knowledge about the Bihar boss.
Just into their teens, thousands of students were forced to answer questions like why Laloo Prasad’s life was “an open book” or why he is called the pioneer in secular ideology.
In one set of questions, for which just 10 marks were allotted, the students were asked on Jaiprakash Narayan, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha and Munshi Premchand. One of them was: “Who was the father of Total Revolution in Bihar and what was the role of Munshi Premchand in the freedom movement'”
The second question in this section was a comprehension test. The text, spread over three long paragraphs on the life of the RJD boss, was followed by five questions, each carrying two marks. The text elaborated on the former chief minister’s personality. “Laloo Yadav is gifted with strong will power and he does whatever he thinks. His personality is a high powered magnet which pulls crowds towards him….
“Laloo Yadav’s life is simple and candid. Staying amidst the poor is his way of life. He strikes a special rapport with the poor, Dalits and the minorities. This deep attachment with the have-nots shows that his roots are tied deep in the soil although he achieved lofty national glory. He is acknowledged for pioneering the secular political ideology in the country….”
The flattery got cheaper with every question. One read: “Lalooji ki kis baat ke sabhi kayal hai (What in Laloo Prasad appeals most to people)'”
“The questions caused a lot of confusion in the examination hall. Some of the candidates had to be explained repeatedly what they meant,” said Bimal Jain, an invigilator. Many teachers of schools in north Bihar even reportedly called up board officials to ask why questions on Laloo Prasad’s jail term, his alleged involvement in the fodder scam, were not set.
The paper has raised a storm with Opposition politicians accusing the Rabri Devi government of trying to “brainwash” children into a “culture of sycophancy”. “It is a classic case of political flattery which is being resorted to for gains by a section of senior teachers and educationists,” said Sushil Kumar Modi, leader of Opposition in the Assembly.
“It is a cruel joke on the tender, innocent students to force them to write positive replies…. There was no other option.”
School education minister Ramchandra Purve, however, defended the questions, saying “the remarks in the text are based on facts”.
“The text does not smell of any politics. The intention is to judge the students’ ability to pick up quick answers from the text itself. And there is no psychological burden on the students since they have been familiar with the name of Laloo Yadav,” Purve said. “We had not stated in the text that Godse was a patriot. So what is all this noise about'”
He also stuck to his stand that Class VIII students were “much more advanced” in their thinking than before. “Do they not want to watch TV serials and exercise their choice in opting for a particular programme'” Purve said.
However, the row over questions is threatening to snowball into an open agitation. Parties like the Shiv Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have threatened to disrupt the ongoing examinations in the state.
This is not the first time that the Rabri government has run into rough weather over a question paper.
Early this year, a Bihar Public Service Commission paper had asked candidates to explain why the BJP was called a communal party. It led to a demonstration by the BJP’s youth wing.