'Lenin' waits wrapped in plastic

The covered statue of Jagdeo Prasad. Telegraph picture

Gaya: Hailed in his lifetime as Bihar's Lenin, the statue of late Jagdeo Prasad, a former deputy chief minister and founder of the now-extinct Soshit Samaj Dal awaits unveiling.

Wrapped in polythene sheets, the statue installed near the front gate of the divisional commissioner's office, was to be unveiled by chief minister Nitish Kumar on September 7. It was however postponed at the eleventh hour on account of the CM's indisposition.

Political observers see the statue installation as an attempt by the CM to retain and further strengthen his hold over the politically important Lav-Kush combine (caste coalition of Koeris and Kurmis).

Besides Jagdeo Prasad's statue, another statue too awaits unveiling - of late Upendra Nath Verma, another influential leader of the Koeris of Magadh region. Prasad and Verma belong to the Dangi sub-caste of Koeris, the other sub-caste being Kushwaha.

The statue's site is said to be controversial. According to RTI activist Brajnandan Pathak, the commissioner's office was built on what as per land records used to be a water body.

He has already petitioned the government for the demolition of the commissioner's office in the light of a Supreme Court order for restoration of water bodies. Restoration of the pond on which the commissioner's office and the statue now stands, was necessary for arresting the steep decline in the water table in the area, said Pathak.

Besides being called as Bihar's Lenin in his lifetime, Prasad coined the politically radical slogan of Abki saal ke bhadon mein, gori ungli kado mein (next paddy sowing season will see the slim white fingers of upper caste women in mud, transplanting paddy), says Congress leader Md Moosa.

Prasad, a former deputy chief minister of the state in the late 1960s, was killed in a police firing during a protest demonstration near Kurtha block of old Gaya district in September 1974.

The response of the upper caste supporters of NDA would be watched with interest as Prasad symbolised the backward movement of Bihar politics, said the Congress leader.

Welcoming the decision to install Prasad's statue, RLSP leader and Jehanabad MP Arun Kumar said Prasad was wrongly branded as anti-upper caste. "Jagdeo Prasad was anti-feudal and progressive and a firm believer in the dignity of a leader," said the MP. "Maybe feudalism crept into his family after his death," added Kumar, without naming former Union minister Nagmani, the son of Prasad.

"It is purely vote bank politics," said RJD vice-president and former MP Shivanand Tiwari.

"The challenge thrown by Upendra Kushwaha appears to have unnerved Nitish," added Tiwari, known for his love-hate relationship with both Nitish and Lalu.

The date for the statue's unveiling has not been finalised, said Gaya district magistrate Abhishekh Singh.


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