Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bihar’s socialist politics: Then & now

Nalin Verma Writes of Telegraph :-

Bihar’s socialist politics: Then & now
Patna, March 6: Standing on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, however, share some commonality — both are progenies of socialist movements begun by Ram Manohar Lohia and Jaiprakash Narayan.
But, the duo’s stunts of riding rickshaws before election time is a marked contrast to their mentors’ style. Nitish Kumar yesterday pulled a Lalu Prasad by travelling in a rickshaw to watch Slumdog Millionaire, breaking away from his no-nonsense image.
The two leaders invariably punctuate their speeches with references to Ram Manohar Lohia, Jaiprakash Narayan and Karpoori Thakur, but seem to be miles away from their lifestyle.
Lohia never rode a rickshaw in his political career. “He (Lohia) believed that leaders fighting against deprivation should not ride vehicles pulled by fellow men,” said Bhola Prasad Singh, a septuagenarian leader and vice-president of the state citizen council. Bhola Babu, as Singh is referred to, was close to Lohia the socialist icon.
Bhola Babu recalls many other names such as Madhu Limaye and Mama Baleshwar, who idolised Lohia, and never got on a rickshaw. The old-timers recall how Lohia and his likes would ride bicycles to party offices.
Asked to draw a parallel between Lohia and his present day progenies, Bhola Singh said: “They (Lohia and JP) represented satyayug and we are living in bhrastyug.”
Then socialists were different as far as their food habits, uniform or disposition were concerned.
Lohia, despite being raised in a western atmosphere, was a vegetarian and a simple man, unlike a gourmet-loving Lalu who got a fish pond dug in 1 Anne Marg when he was the chief minister and brought in chef Anwar Hussein to prepare his food.
Though Lalu Prasad of late has become vegetarian for medical reasons. In a way Nitish Kumar is closer to Lohia or Karpoori as he prefers simple meals of rice, roti, lentils and curry.
The two-time Bihar chief minister, Karpoori, wore dhoti, kurta and bandi looking and living like an ordinary villager. Lalu and other party leaders working with them went through the Eighties in kurta-pyjama and thick-framed glasses. The bandwagon of Karpoori Thakur comprising Lalu, Anup Lal Yadav and Vinayak Yadav could be distinguished from the smartly-dressed Congressmen then. But not today.
The political divide, too, stands bridged. Lalu Prasad is with the Congress — a party that Lohia, JP and Karpoori disliked and fought against.
And Nitish is with the saffron party that Lohia and JP never liked.