The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo frets, titan lies without a pedestal

Patna, Oct. 2: After 500 sit-ups and a 6-km dawn run, Dadan Yadav, who likes to call himself Pahalwan, wastes little time in moving to the backyard of his house. At a makeshift workshop there, finishing touches are being given to his latest obsession — a gigantic statue of Mahavali Vir Lorik Ahir.

Dadan Pahalwan, a wrestler-turned-minister in the Rabri Devi government, has challenged his political rivals many a time to a duel. But he is on to a new game now: winning Yadav votes by reviving memories of caste icon Vir Lorik — a militant hero whose legend is steeped in myth.

But despite Pahalwan’s proximity to the Rabri Devi family, Laloo Prasad Yadav is none too happy. Vir Lorik is associated with militancy among Yadavs — a private militia was set up in his name during the 1970s — and the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief does not want to encourage this when he is striving to broaden his party’s caste base.

Bihar’s first family has refused to give the minister permission to install the statue.

The massive statue, recalling depictions of Shivaji with a menacing sword and a huge shield, lies in a mango orchard in Pahalwan’s house, not far from Rabri Devi’s 1, Anne Marg residence. A large horse lies close by.

The workshop has been abuzz with activity since people from Mumbai and Delhi started work a year ago.

Made of 50,000 kg of brass, the statue is about 21 metres high. If it is installed in a Patna park as the minister desires, it would take up 1,000 square feet.

Pahalwan is yet to figure out the final cost, but Rs 3 crore has already been spent on the statue. Members of the Vir Lorik Ahir Samajik Parivartan Sansthan, which has been floated by the minister and is mobilising funds for the project, say the statue will make it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

“The country now needs a pahalwan like Vir Lorik (a former champion wrestler), who protected the poor and the backward (castes) from the wily exploitative feudals,” the minister says. Boasting his Yadav roots, Pahalwan seems to be identifying himself completely with the wrestling hero.

At his modest residential office, the minister meets 10-15 people, mostly from his constituency in Dumraon in Buxar district, who visit him for his daily discourse.

Pahalwan does not lack in intensity as he delves deep into the legend surrounding Vir Lorik and puts together anecdotes, known as “Lorikayan”, about the Yadav icon.

Vir Lorik, said to be the son of Barkube, a Yadav pahalwan in Sonbhadra on the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border, took on feudal king Molazit after he set his eyes on a 12-year-old Yadav girl. The Yadav icon is said to have killed the ruthless king’s soldiers and cut a hill to pieces with his sword to rescue the girl.

Pahalwan’s account ends with a political message for his followers: Vir Lorik appointed soldiers from a number of backward castes to carry on his good work.

But the hero has long faded from memory and the present generation of politicians, even in Pahalwan’s party, knows nothing about him.

“I want to build an equitable society nurtured by the spirit of courage, sympathy and self-sacrifice. It is one with the model offered by Netaji Subhas Bose, Mahatma Gandhi and Vir Lorik,” says Pahalwan, without explaining what political cocktail could bind the three.

A former schoolteacher who till recently thought all the world was a mat, Pahalwan graduated to politics, becoming an Independent MLA and then supported the Rabri Devi regime, thus becoming a minister.

He now wants to contest the next Lok Sabha elections from Buxar, so that after becoming an MP “I can set up a statue of Lorik there (Parliament) also”.

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