Lalu Prasad Yadav, Possibly India’s Next Prime Minister

For the past four and a half years, India has had a classy, educated, honest Prime Minister in Manmohan Singh. He’s often been criticized for not seeming forceful enough, but he did score a major success against both left and right in the nuclear deal and subsequent vote of no-confidence, and will probably join a relatively small number of Indian PMs in finishing out a complete five-year term. (Quick quiz: how many have there been?)

One person who is being talked about as a viable candidate for India’s next Prime Minister couldn’t be more different — Lalu Prasad Yadav. Yadav is the ex-Chief Minister of Bihar, where he rose to power in the “Mandal era” by mobilizing what are referred to as backward caste voting blocs in the state. Once in power, Yadav became nationally notorious as a rampantly corrupt figure, who embezzled at least $267 million in the “Fodder Scam”. He was eventually forced out of office, but was able to continue effectively running the state after he installed his wife, Rabri Devi, as Chief Minister in his stead. Starting in the late 1990s, Lalu Prasad Yadav became the punchline of many Indian jokes; even saying his name in some circles leads people to start smiling, in expectation of the joke to follow. (Another quiz: what are the names of his nine children?)

During the current UPA (Congress) administration he has had a second political life as the National Railways Minister — and he’s had remarkable success in turning around a huge government operation that had for decades been dominated by inefficiency and losses for the government. During its tenure (1999-2004), the NDA (BJP) had even been making noises to the effect that the only solution would be privatization, or failing that, raising ticket prices aggressively. But under Yadav, in 2008 alone the Railways earned profits of $6 billion — without raising passenger ticket prices at all. He may have been incredibly corrupt (and may still be corrupt), but he has been remarkably effective at turning around a major government agency.

I mention Lalu Prasad Yadav as a Prime Minister possibility as a reflection of the chatter I was hearing, mainly from relatives, as I was traveling in northern India last week. I have no idea whether it’s a real possibility, and I’m certainly far from thrilled about the possibility of someone so corrupt becoming Prime Minister. But it would nevertheless be interesting, partly because it would involve the country making a clear departure from the Nehru family and western-educated elites, in favor of someone with a strikingly different profile.

He may or may not become Prime Minister, but it does appear that while Lalu Prasad Yadav is still the butt of a few jokes, many Indians are starting to utter his name with newfound respect.

332 thoughts on “Lalu Prasad Yadav, Possibly India’s Next Prime Minister

  1. Unless you consider all Muslims as one indivisible entity, in which case, you should accept that it is perfectly reasonable for them to take up cudgels against real or imagined grievances against their fellow travelers anywhere in the world too

    Now, why would anyone think that?

  2. 307 · rob said

    Now, why would anyone think that?

    rob, I didn’t use that phrase without a reason. It is a crappy tribal mentality that has now gone global and anybody who perpetuates this belief system and invokes it as an excuse for action (“Look what Bangladeshi Muslims did to Bangladeshi Hindus! This justifies violence on my Muslim neighbors by me, an Indian Hindu!”) has lost all credibility and morality.

  3. 307 · rob said

    Now, why would anyone think that?

    My previous comment is only a reiteration of the penultimate paragraph in my earlier comment #305.

  4. rob, I didn’t use that phrase without a reason

    Ah, ok, fair enough–consider me as merely providing the link! ;-)

    has lost all credibility and morality.

    For the sake of precision, it’s a different form of morality, no? I think there are good grounds for rejecting such a moral system (so I’m with you there), but we shouldn’t label it as amoral.

  5. I don’t want to get along with you if you’re going to be saying things like “Modi should be home minister” or anything close

    All this just for Modi being a Home minister. Some of us want to go the whole way. Vote Modi for PM. :-)

  6. 310 · rob said

    For the sake of precision, it’s a different form of morality, no?

    Sure. I realized as I was writing it that I didn’t have a succinct and correct word to put in there, but I think we are both agreed that it is a system that should be rejected.

  7. Dr A spewed

    Given a choice between being civil and being uncivil with people who are being uncivil in conversation and drowning people out with an alternative discourse that is factually challenged and manufactured, I will always choose to be uncivil

    Yes, I understand now. I disagree with you. You think you are right and are irritated by my arguments that you feel are incorrect. So you kill me. Truly liberal, secular, progressive and epistemological. Arundhati Roy would be proud.

    Ponniyin Selvan said

    Some of us want to go the whole way. Vote Modi for PM. :-)

    Insha’Allah!

  8. Yes, I understand now. I disagree with you. You think you are right and are irritated by my arguments that you feel are incorrect. So you kill me. Truly liberal, secular, progressive and epistemological

    Disagreement: I like chocolate; you don’t like chocolate. Completely different worlds: I think Modi is a dangerous person and a certified murderer; you either don’t believe this (which is implausible unless you weave such an elaborate coccoon that it would be impossible to say anything about the world) or you support himm for doing this, and want him to have more power.

    btw, where did i say I wanted to kill you? It’s an interesting conception nof the world you have – in which a blog fight amounts to a threat on your life, but people who actually kill other people for no particularly good reason are worthy of support. What I said was that I think you’re full of shit, and I’m going to call you out on it – end of story.

  9. Dr A Riots- Heinous Gujarat Riots- Heinous too. Desired outcome- strict punishment for those found guilty. The worst punishment in the land. Is Modi a certified murderer?- don’t think so.(unless you consider your own certificate valid) = disagreement

    where did i say I wanted to kill you

    Depends on how far you want to take your uncivility. Anyway it’s good to know that one’s life is not under threat.

  10. Is Modi a certified murderer?- don’t think so.(unless you consider your own certificate valid)

    I’ll take the word of HRW’s data among others- but since you like Hindutva-friendly sources, maybe you can take the word of the people who are members of Hindutva groups who said so, cited above. You see, there is no disagreement about Modi – there is only disagreement about whether or not you are willfully or unintentionally livinng in a state of denial. I’ll go with willfully.

    and btw, it’s “pogroms” or “ethnic cleansing”, not “riots.” Thanks.

  11. Modi v. Lalu? Seriously? It’s like debating benefits of drinking acid v. rat poison. Amonymous, Some days ago, under guise of broadening conversation, you tried to disengage (admittedly perverted brand of) islam from Mumbai terror attacks. It makes your own “narrow conversation” on hindutvavadis quite amusing. Don’t get mad at Modi apologists. You are merely fighting w/ a saffron version of yourself. Wise words from D. Parker for all y’all’s plague-ridden houses: You can’t teach on old dogma new tricks.

  12. 317 · Amol said

    Modi v. Lalu? Seriously? It’s like debating benefits of drinking acid v. rat poison.

    A spot-on summary.

  13. 1. Give us a count based on the document so we can know how you arrived at this conclusion

    . The document is not written well enough, or even formatted properly enough to make it easy to crunch through. Going through the 26 relavant pages (out of 33) dilligently once was a pain in the neck and I do not plan on going through it again. Since you posted the document, I just found it surprising that you did not go through it properly.

    Here are the assumptions I had when I went through the report. Keep them in mind when you analyse it on your own. a. Holding religious processions is a fundamental right. I do not consider holding one as a provocation for a riot. b. I do not consider police action against Muslims to be akin to Hindus provoking riots.

    Given the Indian Police’s lack of proper equipment, personnel, training and funds, and their reliance on colonial era policing techniques, it is completely unrealistic to expect them to be as effective as the first world police. A police force cannot fire rubber bullets to disperse a crowd if they do not have any.

    c. Whenever weasel words were used it would, I assumed it would be possible to get clarity by looking it up further in other sources. (unfortunately it turned out that most of the document was full of weasel words such as “a particular community”, “a minority community”, etc which landed up wasting way too much time)

    2. Since you now consider this document worthy evidence of historical truth, presumably you will agree now that the consensus opinion 2002 Gujarat massacres were a state-sponsored pogrom against Muslims, as the article states?

    Sure, I always consider biased, inconsistently written, badly formatted, documents which are full and of weasel words and deviod of citations, to be worthy evidence of historical truth. Especially when it is clear that a high school kid in a hurry could produce a better report by cut copying and pasting articles from the internet. The fact that NYT, and the rest mentioned consider institutions such as JNU to be a academic sources goes a long way towards explaining why their coverage of india is so terrible.

    Seriously, given that I added a comment to describe why the document is garbage, (See 293), I gotta say … don’t you even try to read through other’s comments fully?

    My point when I that fears of Hinduism under threat can hardly be a crank theory when even a document hostile to hindu parties has so many examples of anti-Hindu actions.

  14. 319 · DizzyDesi said

    a. Holding religious processions is a fundamental right. I do not consider holding one as a provocation for a riot.

    This is obvious, but let’s not kid ourselves that there is no provocation in word or deed when the Ganpathi Chathurthi procession travels by the neighborhood mosque. I am fully aware, and I have to assume you must be too, of all the inciting that goes on in such a situation, and it is not a matter of riotous Muslims venting their anger on a bunch of peaceful Hindus minding their business and doing their pujas either.

  15. I am fully aware, and I have to assume you must be too, of all the inciting that goes on in such a situation, and it is not a matter of riotous Muslims venting their anger on a bunch of peaceful Hindus minding their business and doing their pujas either.

    I can easily imagine taunting occuring, but to respond with violence is unacceptable. After all Hindus condone the same thing when there is a muslim procession. Do’nt Muslim processions occur though Hindu neighborhoods? Are these free of taunting? So why are there so much fewer riots when this occurs? And the taunting arguent has it’s limits … what explains a riot starting when a Yagna was held inside a temple?

    While growing up, I’ve seen bandhs called and arson occurring for stupid reasons … for example in the gulf war I, US fought Iraq and to protest this muslims threw rocks on BEST busses? Somehow, local violence was condoned for anything happening to muslims anywhere in the world. What I find disgusting is an Indian estblishment that thinks this is ok. This is an establishment which wins elections on the promise of releasing convicted Muslim felons, as Karnanudhi did in Coimbatore. This is an establishment which thinks its ok to remove a Ban on a known terrorist organizaiton to win a few votes, as the movement to lift the Ban on SIMI showed. An establishment which funds madrasas without even attempting to impose secular standards as the price of funds. An eastablishment that avoids any sort of action or codemnation when the Muslim community is involved.

    I support anyone who restores a bit of balance to this, who goes against the eastablishment’s rules Someone who drills into the Muslim community that indulging in violence will be punished severely, and that they better ensure that their community plays nice overall, if they want to be a part of the greater Indian community.

  16. 322 · DizzyDesi said

    While growing up, I’ve seen bandhs called and arson occurring for stupid reasons …

    If you want to talk about the majority community doing this nonsense, there are all sorts of events ranging from Rajkumar’s death to Cauvery water problem to non Marathas writing a railway exam in Bombay. It is typical fishing expedition behavior to blame Muslims as the primary source of problems, invoke Willie Horton, and claim that unleashing goon squads and destroying their mosques makes “their community play nice”, and they’d better conform to Hindu norms and practices, or else!

  17. there are all sorts of events ranging from Rajkumar’s death to Cauvery water problem to non Marathas writing a railway exam in Bombay.

    Are you seriously saying it is the Hindu fundamentalists who rioted because Raj Kumar died? Or that the Sangh parivar agitated over the Cauvery waters?And that the VHP brought life to a standstill because Biharis wrote railway exams in Mumbai?

    Man, you are an educated person.Don’t you read newspapers?

    Lets just stick to the communal riots shall we?

  18. 324 · Kumar said

    Don’t you read newspapers?

    Forget about my reading newspapers. Did you read my comment or what it was in response to, or were you just hoping that I said what you wanted me to say? My point was explicitly that beating up on Muslims as the dominant cause of riots and talking about Hindus under threat unless Muslims lived by the norms of a Hindu society was going on a fishing expedition.

  19. And, further to be very clear: I do not abide thuggery by either religion. I just do not believe that a party that frames the core national problem as real and imagined threats to the majority religion, which can be solved only by a Manichaean struggle with all perceived interlopers (“descendants of violent conquerors”, “forcible converters” and so on), does not offer anything constructive, and will in fact, be responsible for far more disturbance, violence and radicalism. That, and all the things I said earlier about equal standards being applied to Hindu and Muslim clannishness, despite claims of said violence being purely defensive (because “he hit me first” got old fast once I got out of my fifth grade playground).

  20. I just do not believe that a party that frames the core national problem as real and imagined threats to the majority religion, which can be solved only by a Manichaean struggle with all perceived interlopers (“descendants of violent conquerors”, “forcible converters” and so on), does not offer anything constructive, and will in fact, be responsible for far more disturbance, violence and radicalism.

    hey, don’t use no double negatives.

    Also, I just do believe that such a thing (but maybe not in a form of a political party) is a necessary evil, which must exist but be kept in check. does that make me an “apologist”? Paranoid, mayb…

  21. Rahul,

    It is your quote that attributed the cause for Raj Kumar’s death related riots and cauvery riots to majority community.Not mine.

    The best I can say in your defence is that your point about fishing expedition may have rung true, but you took the wrong examples.

    Ok, lets look at your second comment.

    I just do not believe that a party that frames the core national problem as real and imagined threats to the majority religion, which can be solved only by a Manichaean struggle with all perceived interlopers (“descendants of violent conquerors”, “forcible converters” and so on), does not offer anything constructive, and will in fact, be responsible for far more disturbance, violence and radicalism.

    Fair points and I have no issues here except that the BJP (if that is what you mean by a party) has not framed the core problem the way you have documented (using same or different words).If you look at the BJP website, they have many resources on ‘Integral Humanism’ (as per the Web site, it is their guiding philosophy), and Hindutva.We can’t have a reasonable discussion if you simply state what you feel is the BJP ideology. On the contrary, it is always the ‘secular’ parties in India that harp on the communal issues.

    equal standards being applied to Hindu and Muslim clannishness

    Where are the equal standards, mate?One side gets subsidies for Haj from taxpayers money, and the other side can’t even have temporary shelters erected in 100 hectares to serve needy pilgrims.One side can have 4 wives and complete autonomy in managing their religious places and even gets federal and state grants, wheras the other side’s temples are managed by the Govt, and the donations by devotees go into the exchequer to be used for mostly minority welfare.

    I can quote dozens of such examples of assymetry, but lets leave even that.

    Lets talk freedoms, especially the right to live and thrive.Look at the % of Muslims in India at 1947 and look at it now.Repeat the exercise for % of non-Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1947/1971 and now.

    If you can show me a single State or area in India where the % of Muslims has come down over the last 700 years, I will gladly accept your points.

    And yea, this is my last comment on this post.Your heart is in the right place and I appreciate the spirit behind your logic.I fervently wish for a day when we don’t have to blame one community or the other.But that day may not come as long as this assymetry continues.

  22. Alright, I feel like I am going into stuck tape recorder mode, so I am going to hold my peace on this thread (and, if I had an ounce of sense in me, this topic), and bid adieu to this post.

  23. 317 · Amol said

    Amonymous, Some days ago, under guise of broadening conversation, you tried to disengage (admittedly perverted brand of) islam from Mumbai terror attacks. It makes your own “narrow conversation” on hindutvavadis quite amusing. Don’t get mad at Modi apologists. You are merely fighting w/ a saffron version of yourself. Wise words from D. Parker for all y’all’s plague-ridden houses: You can’t teach on old dogma new tricks.

    Serious charge :) The same framework should be explanatory for the violence in Mumbai as for the Godhra riots – and I believe that that a socialsciencey framework that looks at communalism on a regional level of former British India is a reasonable one to do that (it’s not the only social sciencey one, but it’s a reasonable one, imo, unless someone wants to show otherwise from within a social sciencey framework). I would apply that standard here and I would apply that standard there. But that’s nont what this conversation is – nor is it what that one was – it is about two competing discourses – the one I’m describing that I usse, and the other one, which is often called the Hindutva one.

    How anyone in their right minds could come to the conclusion that Modi was not involved in the Gujarat riots after looking into the matter some is beyond me. This is why I started talking about epistemology – because ultimately, it boils down to worldviews, not to disagreements about specific facts rooted in a common frame of reference about how to determine what is true and what is not. And so you can say that both “sides” are being dogmatic – but in point of fact, I don’t think I am, and Rahul certainly isn’t, from what I can tell. I would hesitate to even say we’re a “side” unless “people who are appalled by a cavalier treatment of facts and the elevation of mass murderers to power over 1 billion people” can be said to be a “side.”

    So I’ll keep tossing stones from my mansion, thanks :)

  24. How anyone in their right minds could come to the conclusion that Modi was not involved in the Gujarat riots after looking into the matter some is beyond me. This is why I started talking about epistemology – because ultimately, it boils down to worldviews, not to disagreements about specific facts rooted in a common frame of reference about how to determine what is true and what is not. And so you can say that both “sides” are being dogmatic – but in point of fact, I don’t think I am, and Rahul certainly isn’t, from what I can tell. I would hesitate to even say we’re a “side” unless “people who are appalled by a cavalier treatment of facts and the elevation of mass murderers to power over 1 billion people” can be said to be a “side.”

    That should read “pogroms” or “state-sponsored ethnic cleansing” – sorry. Proof in the pudding of what happens when a Hindutva discourse is articulate and rearticulated and rerearticulated on end untill its terms slip innto common usage.

  25. 319 · DizzyDesi said

    Seriously, given that I added a comment to describe why the document is garbage, (See 293), I gotta say … don’t you even try to read through other’s comments fully?

    I didn’t need to read your comments in full to use your way of thinking to illustrate my point. You selectively read the document to make assertions that confirmed your worldview (e.g. “The number of riots started by muslims vastly outnumbers the number of riots started by Hindus.”). Based on these assertions, you then advanced your worldview. And you later concluded with your worldview: “My point when I that fears of Hinduism under threat can hardly be a crank theory when even a document hostile to hindu parties has so many examples of anti-Hindu actions.”

    So this is the level of pedantry that I have to stoop to to communicate with many people who hold this world view and similar nationalist or other views- to point out that in your worldview, you don’t care about empirical accuracy as a guiding value but do use the form of empirical accuracy in mounting credibility for your arguments (which gets irritating and concusing unless we are willing to cut through the whole thing and is what makes it postmodern). So I would ask you to simply speak, setting your preconceptions side as far as possible, and recognize when your preconceptions are incorrect, but it’s probably pointless.

    But I will give you an example of how I did this: the Godhra pogroms were the first acts of massive state-sponsored communal violence that I had heard about. So I associated the Sangh with massive state-sponsored communal violence. Then I learned abot the Congress violence in 1984 against the Sikhs. So then I underrstood that it is not just the Sangh that has engaged in massive state-sponsored communal violence in India.

    From there, it was only a short step, relying on this method of caring about reality while still acknowledging some uncertainty, to learn about other ways of understanding communalism, other forms of state violence (like Telengana) and forms of non-state or quasi-state violence, as well as the roots of communalism in British colonial practices and political economy, etc. So now I understand that it is not just the Sangh that has engaged in these actions, it is not the Sangh alone that one can analytically atttribute responsibility to, and that Hindu majoritarianism and secular modernism are only analytically separable in Indian nationalism – they both have roots that go back into the 19th century at least.

    However, it is absolutely pointless in trying to engage in a conversation with certain people in this vein because they are NOT interested in understanding communalism, let alone ending it. Rather they exist within the bounds set by it and, moreover – and this is what is galling to the pseudosecular communist new york times reader in me – seem to enjoy it. So at a certain point, either you are a complete dipshit for wanting someone like Narendra Modi to be prime minister and really are incapable of understanding basic realities of the world, or you really, honestly and truly, believe that having someone who helped organize mass murder as the prime minister of India is a good idea, which is a frightening frightening thought to some of us (i.e. the category of people who don’t like known mass murderers in power).

    Hence you get beef-eating jokes from this vegetarian ;)

  26. Modi v. Lalu? Seriously? It’s like debating benefits of drinking acid v. rat poison.

    Well, lalu has ruled Bihar for 15 years (nothing much to write about there), but his tenure as a Railways minister has made wonders (that is the point of the blog) and Modi, we know is an efficient CM, getting re-elected two times consecutively in India is a big deal and I hear that Gujarat is one of the fast developing states. I don’t think anything is seriously wrong for those two to aspire to become Prime minister.

    Do you have anyone else in mind?. If you throw some names we can figure out where you stand.

  27. it is absolutely pointless in trying to engage in a conversation with certain people in this vein because they are NOT interested in understanding communalism, let alone ending it. Rather they exist within the bounds set by it and, moreover seem to enjoy it.

    Dr A, for kicks just replace communalism by communism.

  28. 334 · amaun said

    it is absolutely pointless in trying to engage in a conversation with certain people in this vein because they are NOT interested in understanding communalism, let alone ending it. Rather they exist within the bounds set by it and, moreover seem to enjoy it. Dr A, for kicks just replace communalism by communism.

    Try replacing “communalism” and “communism” with “any dogmatic ideology.” That is why good Marxists generally emphasize Marx’s method (or variations therefrom) and thiknking and observing and learning rather than exegesis or dogmatism. They’re also often interchangeable ;)

  29. Well making money is non issue.

    Lalu has not masterminded the fodder scam, but it is the brahman jagarnathe mishra. The scam started in his period but case against Mr. Lalu is just politically motivated by everyone Cong, BJP etc. Jagarnath Mishra too goes always in jail with Lalu but since he is non entity in indian & bihar politics media do not give any coverage.

    Now we have more corrupt people amassing millions & billions be it from the self proclaimed meritocracy class of industrywala’s or corporate houses who go to government for all soaps, tax exemption, money, land at cheap price all in name of vast poor people. Similarly the fascist, fundamentalist, murderer camoufalaged in nationalism (by shouting at top of its voice & propagating the same with help of thier controlled media that they are nationalist) RSS,BJP,VHP,Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal etc. LK Advani is the most corrupted and so is all the BJP leaders, Rajnath singh did only one work and was to kill Phulan Devi and nothing else. And so is case with congress…………

    Its high time that both the Congress & BJP should be kicked off from india. Already they don’t have much foot in eastern, souther, NE india and so it should be their status in rest too.

  30. Hello to All Who Seeing This Forum

    1st of all If Lalu Gets more then 35 seats from bihar and jharkhand Then He Have Enough Power to forcely Become the primeminister of india.

    And by These Days Lalu were given A very good inpression to country on The post of Railway Minister.

    He Deserve To Become Next Prime Mnister Of india,And After When He Become Prime Minister,,,I think He give Enough Time ToGot Out Bihar From Poority and, he able to provide good facility of education ,road,and electricity in Bihar

    Thankyou;

  31. Lalu ji, also Mr Lalu, he is have best many kwalities of bihar also india great. Prime minestar if he was will becoming all everything in everybody sapport his from sure. India she has many poorest sampal peapol has no educatad for to speaking sampal same Lalu ji fit. Gandiji Lalu ji india village importand making. Lalu ji if also when of becomed Prime Minestar all india happy happy making laf haha haha peace from sure yes.