The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo breaks free, pokes fun at rivals

New Delhi, July 14: Laloo Prasad Yadav cut loose today after having had to stick to the straitjacket of reading out a prepared speech while presenting his maiden railway budget a week ago.

Making full use of the “freedom”, he took on the National Democratic Alliance in what was to be a reply to the three-day-long debate on his budget.

As the Opposition alliance walked out on him yet again today, Laloo Prasad said: “They showed their back when I came to present the rail budget. They are weak...Whenever I stand up, they show me their backs as they are in retreat.” He attributed it to the NDA’s “depression” and “derailed minds” after losing power.

Laloo Prasad did manage to speak about his budget in the middle of waxing eloquent on bribery in defence deals, the Gujarat riots and his lathi versus VHP’s trishul distribution, among other things.

The Opposition, he quipped, had skipped his reply but was listening secretly. He then parodied an old Hindi film song: “Chup chup khade ho zaroor koi baat hai.”

When god wants to punish someone, he does not kill but corrupts that person’s mind, the railway minister went on against the NDA. One of its leaders, he said, had alleged that ballot papers had been snatched in Chhapra (Laloo Prasad’s constituency) when polls were held through electronic voting machines.

The BJP, he continued, had no moral right to raise the issue of “tainted” ministers when its own (former) president had been caught on camera (purportedly) accepting money.

Would people trust more what they had seen with their eyes (as in the case of Bangaru Laxman and the Tehelka tapes) or what they had heard (as with the “tainted” ministers)' he asked.

“I want to tell the nation that this government will last its full five-year term and rule even thereafter. (The) NDA has no chance of coming back to power again,” Laloo Prasad said, accusing the BJP of fanning rumours to the contrary to keep its alliance together.

He added he was not vindictive but would not sit quiet if the BJP kept on prodding him. He regretted that the Opposition “still call me a joker and that I indulge in drama”, despite no one having any complaints against him as he had not raised fares.

Laloo Prasad urged his rivals to “eulogise” Sonia Gandhi and asked to keep “some anti-allergic drugs in the House” for them as they had “allergy” to the very mention of her name.

Halfway through, he referred to security on trains and said most murders on trains occur in Maharashtra, followed by Uttar Pradesh; Bihar is only third.

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