This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sourodipto Sanyal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Lalu Yadav Is Corrupt. But Here’s Why Millions Still Vote For Him

More from Sourodipto Sanyal

Growing up, all that I had heard from the mainstream English media and through hearsay was how Lalu Yadav, the former chief minister of Bihar was corrupt and that lawlessness was rampant when he was in charge of the state, directly or indirectly, from 1990-2005.

Bihar had become synonymous with lawlessness and his reign was described as ‘jungle raj’ by many. Movies like “Apaharan”, a 2005 kidnapping thriller starring Ajay Devgn became the definitive film which described the contemporary socio-political scenario in Bihar.

Then came Nitish Kumar. He became the chief minister of the state in November 2005. Under his leadership and his party Janata Dal (United)’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the state was largely able to shed its notoriety for lawlessness that it had acquired under the leadership of Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi.

The mainstream media projected a version that Nitish Kumar had successfully managed to change all that had gone wrong during Lalu Yadav’s reign.

Then came the 2015 Bihar elections. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Indian National Congress got into an alliance to stop the BJP from coming to power. And they succeeded. However, the thing to note was that Lalu Yadav’s RJD managed to secure 80 seats while JD(U) got 71. The vote share of the RJD was 18.4%, while that of the JD(U) was 16.8%. Candidates of both political parties had contested in 101 seats each.

Few questions came to my mind. How was it possible for a leader convicted of corruption in a scam which was worth around ₹950 crore to be so popular amongst the masses? Was it merely a case of good marketing or were there certain things which took place in Bihar from 1990-2005 which makes Lalu Yadav the most popular leader of Bihar in the history of independent India?

How Subalterns Benefitted From Lalu Yadav’s Rule

If one wants to understand the success of the politics of Lalu Prasad Yadav, one needs to go beyond the conventional understanding of terms such as ‘development’. His rule was not about building schools, hospitals, roads, providing electricity or improving infrastructure in general.

It was largely about three things: Shaking down the caste order which had plagued a feudal Bihari society, social justice for people not belonging to upper caste communities and ensuring security for the Muslim population in the backdrop of the Ram temple movement in the 1990s and its aftermath.

His Role In Shaking Down The Caste Order

Lalu Prasad Yadav was famous for saying that even if he could not provide ‘swarg’ (heaven), he did manage to provide ‘swar’ (voice) for the weaker sections of the society. And that is what he, as per journalistic and academic accounts did. Academic Jeffrey Witsoe argues that Lalu Yadav’s politics was about an intentional breakdown of state institutions such as the police and the bureaucracy since it was dominated by the upper castes and putting power in the hands of lower-caste politicians (many of them criminal) who could muster enough resources to help the lower castes in their respective constituencies.

Witsoe calculates data from the year 2002: there were 133 IAS officers of the four main upper caste communities – Bhumihar, Brahmin, Kayastha, Rajput, out of the 224 in the entire Bihar cadre. However, there were only seven belonging to the Kurmis, Koeris and Yadavs – the three largest OBC communities.

However, when it came to the representation of lower castes in the legislative assembly, it was a different case altogether. Out of the 234 MLAs, only 54 of them belonged to the four upper castes and 100 were from the three largest OBC communities.

How Did The Lower Castes Benefit?

In a report in The Caravan, it is written that the Yadav community in Barbigha, Bihar got a sense of psychological empowerment. Before the coming of Lalu Prasad, Yadavs had to put a shoe over their heads before passing through a Bhumihar (upper caste) house. Earlier, the police refused to register complaints of the people belonging to the Yadav community. But all that changed after Lalu Yadav came to power in 1990.

According to a 1995 news report in India Today, a 45-year-old landless labourer from Sitamarhi district in Bihar talks about how he no longer had to bow down and touch his forehead to the ground when his landlord walked past him. He said, “Now I don’t do this when my landlord walks by… Because Laloo said so.”

Princeton historian Gyan Prakash writes in an article on Al Jazeera, “As chief minister, he walked into Dalit quarters, megaphone in hand. He opened his bungalow to crowds of the poor and unprivileged castes. The privileged castes saw this as disrespecting the office, but Lalu Yadav became a nationwide household name.”

In an article on Scroll, journalist Saba Naqvi describes Lalu’s reign as this, “…The anarchy he presided over was, to my mind, a deliberate shake-down of the old order. The insults to the upper castes, the breakdown of old structures were part of his political and social strategy…”

The sense of psychological empowerment which lower castes experienced after centuries of oppression by upper caste landlords was perhaps the essence of the politics of Lalu Yadav and why people in Bihar continue to aggressively defend and vote for him.

For them, the first emancipation that they wanted was a sense of dignity, self-respect which had been snatched away from them due to the entrenched caste system which dominated Bihari society. And that is what Lalu Yadav by breaking down state institutions, empowering lower-caste criminal politicians and creating a sense of lawlessness managed to give them.

However, it must be pointed out that large section of the benefit did end up being taken by certain castes such as the Yadavs. They became exploitative, the ripples of which are still felt today in Bihar. Earlier this week, in Tejashwi Yadav’s own legislative constituency in Raghopur, people from the Yadav community allegedly burnt down Dalit homes due to a land dispute. According to the 1995 India Today report, Lalu Yadav turned a blind eye when caste massacres were allegedly committed by people belonging to the Yadav community.

But by and large, in many pockets of Bihar, his was an alliance which managed to stitch together a broader coalition involving OBCs, Muslims and the Dalits.

Security Provided To The Muslim Community

After the Bihar election results were declared in November 2015, a video of Lalu Yadav in a rally asking LK Advani to end his Rath Yatra to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya in 1990 went viral. His government would eventually go on to arrest LK Advani in the same year and Lalu would overnight become a hero to the Muslim community in the state.

In 1989, the Bhagalpur communal riots had resulted in the Muslims deserting the Congress and they had found a replacement in Lalu. While this is the most famous incident of him being a secular leader, there are other instances too.

A journalist narrates in Scroll how Lalu Yadav had picked up a call after midnight by an ordinary resident to quell a communal disturbance in Patna. He would personally visit communally sensitive areas and threaten the police with terrible consequences if riots took place in the region.

Throughout his political career, he has refused to work out any alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party. If one goes through his interviews from the 1990s to 2017, he categorically mentions that compromising with the BJP is out of the question for him.

While it is true that his regime brought about a sense of lawlessness in many parts of Bihar, the empowerment of many marginalised groups under his watch is also a reality. Why else would millions throng to vote for a man and his party who is alleged to have been involved in so many corruption scandals over the years?

_

Image source: Saxena Sharad/ The India Today Group/ Getty Images
You must be to comment.
  1. Bhanu Narayan

    A completely white washed, fabricated and made up story meant to eulogize the ‘darkest years’ of governance in Bihar.
    It’s bizarrely insane that the period of Lalu Ji’s chief Ministership that saw massive surge in poverty (62.7% of Undivided Bihar moved into poverty during his regime , deep plunge from 46% when he started), unprecedented corruption, utter lawlessness and disgustingly undemocratic interferences in administration.
    It was the new normal, Someone who claimed to have experienced poverty ruled like an absolute monarch and millions of Poor starved,suffered and died during his rule.
    A period where women couldn’t have ventured out post-noon, Kidnapping was a flourishing

More from Sourodipto Sanyal

Similar Posts

By Imran Khan

By utkarsh tiwari

By Aishwarya Kr

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below