Thursday, September 21, 2006
Lalu in Wonderland
Railway to Jersey gai ke tarah hai, jitna dhyan doge, utna hee doodh milega
- Lalu Prasad Yadav, in IIM-A
Not maybe the most memorable quote you want to store in your diary. But then being no expert in the field of Bovines, I guess I should reserve my comments on the Jersey cow and stick to the Railways and Lalu, arguably India’s most colourfully articulate politician (Down the Vindhyas, former Kerala CM , Late E K Nayanar is a close competitor for his memorable one-liners like where are there women, there will be rape). His visit to the IIM-A has generated enough media noise on how a rustic shepherd politician from the hinterland is giving lectures in management to India’s creamy layer of MBAs.
It’s been a classic Bollywood story for a small time man who entered politics, at the same time as Nitish Kumar and others, enthused by Jayaprakash Narayan’s call to fight Indira Gandhi’s political hegemony. He later on became the self-proclaimed “Poor Man’s Messiah” before getting mired in a flurry of scandals (Thanks to him, fodder is no longer a rural item).
He cocked a snook at democracy by getting his wife to take over his reins as he cooled his heels in jail. His popularity has still held him in good stead, though not the same way as earlier. His latest avatar as “Management Guru” is of course, undoubtedly his most successful one as critics have suddenly woken up wondering what is it that Lalu has done to put the Railways on track.
The Railways turnaround is a big story and Lalu’s become a management guru, teaching how to revive ailing companies (How about Bihar now?). There are, of course, divided opinions on whether this has anything to do with Lalu’s management skills or due to other reasons? Some have suggested that the economic boom has fostered greater train utility and that it was a case of being at the right place at the right time but there are also pro-Lalu versions.
It’s quite possible but then if it’s the minister in charge who receives brickbats in case things goes wrong, should we hide the bouquets if things go on the right track. To be honest, I am not very sure whether he has changed things (considering his track record of democraticising Bihar) but maybe I should not pass a judgment without actually finding out the truth. But then where are the media stories on what Lalu has actually done?
There’s a certain class hypocrisy when the only reporting that is done about him is his “starched kurta pyjama”, “outlandish language” and other not so proud mannerisms. Every time he appears on screen, the media is hell bent upon playing up his “buffoon” image. Be critical about him and I’m sure that there are any enough points to score doing that.
But reducing a man to mere caricature and making fun of him at a personal level does no credit to the NDTVs and CNN-IBNs. This is not a Lalu-specific mentality but a kind of reporting which measures people on their “so-called” civilizational attributes and blissfully ignores the actual work done by the person. Maybe the English speaking media just does not enjoy the other class doing something that the elite struggle to achieve.
Indian democracy, unlike the American one, is a very grass roots democracy. The people who vote are those who are on the sidelines but find no voice in the non-vernacular media. Wasn’t “Shining India” a triumph of our democracy when the entire press, out of touch with rural India and their aspirations, wrote off the Congress and unilaterally anointed the BJP as the victor?
There’s a certain arrogance in the media which fails to understand the pulse of the nation and paints itself in the colours of the rich and the famous. Slum displacement in the name of development is in “everyone’s interest” but try shifting the people of Cuff Parade and the same story becomes a story of human oppression (and ofcourse, an interview with the ever dependable Mahesh Bhatt).
CNN-IBN interviewed a few IIM-A students (in their early 20s) who were part of Prof. Lalu’s sessions and asked them if they were interested to join Indian Railways. One of them quipped that he would not be interested to join as a bureaucrat but was willing to join if he were invited to be a part of the top management!!! Yes, ofcourse how modest can you get with a tag like IIM-A (is it Arrogance) plaguing you? No stories have come till now of what they think of Lalu’s speech and whether his sound bytes are a value addition to jargons like “core competency” and “SWOT”.
Has the “poster boy” of political entertainment actually grown up or is it just another media entertainment story??? Whatever it is, it is a demonstration of the power of democracy where English savvy media is reduced to pour in tributes to a rustic pastoral leader, albeit reluctantly.
Hopefully, Lalu’s management gyan will give all of us fodder, sorry, food for thought….