THIS is their second — and last stop — on Day 1 of their joint campaign for the 10 Assembly bypolls ten days away and it’s clear: it is bada bhai (elder brother) Lalu Prasad Yadav’s stage and chhota bhai (younger brother) Nitish Kumar shares it.
It’s not just that he’s clearly the elder in the ‘big brother-younger brother’ by-play that makes Lalu own the stage in their first joint rally in over two decades since they broke up. It’s the way he strides in late surrounded by gun-toting commandos — Nitish stands up to welcome him and be hugged by him — and speaks last. It’s the manner in which Lalu sits astride his chair, as on a throne, while Nitish seems to subside into his.
Lalu is imperious, now admonishing a noisy section of the crowd that has assembled in the dusty grounds of a local school, and then cutting short a speaker’s lengthy introductory remarks, commanding him to keep it short. His is the tone of the emperor who brooks no dissent, not a recently jailed politician who has lost his parliamentary seat, is disqualified from contesting elections and whose party has lost successive assembly and Lok Sabha polls in the state he once ruled.
This is Lalu’s show in a more significant way. He speaks after Nitish but it is almost as if he has set the tone for Nitish’s speech.
Lalu speaks about how India needs to be saved from Narendra Modi and how he and Nitish will do it together. Lalu pledges to fight many evils — this is a battle between “mandal and kamandal” he says, while also railing against “social media” and the “internet”, FDI in railways and insurance, price rise and the “bullet train”. For him, all evils converge in the Modi government, which is “endangering the country”.
It was sworn in at the Centre, he taunts, at the “inauspicious hour of 6.15 pm”, a time when “mothers urge their children to keep awake, be watchful, not give in to sleep”. It has presided over a series of disasters — ever since, by his count, a building has collapsed in Chennai, students were swept away by the river waters in Uttarakhand and Gopinath Munde died.
In his speech, just like Lalu, Nitish, too, paints a battle for the state’s assembly bypolls being fought by an allegedly sinister “Centre” on one side — he