GAYA: Helicopter, or ‘udankhatola’ as he would call it, has been Lalu Prasad’s favourite mode of transport ever since he assumed the office of Bihar CM about three decades back. But times have changed.
Serving imprisonment in a Ranchi jail as a convict in fodder scam cases, the RJD chief on Wednesday travelled from Ranchi to Delhi in the 12439 Rajdhani Express on his way to AIIMS for medical treatment. And when the train stopped at Gaya for a scheduled three-minute halt around midnight, high-pitched ‘Lalu zindabad’ and ‘Mat ghabrana’ slogans rent the air.
A visibly feeble Lalu slowly walked to the door of his H1 coach with aide and party MLA Bhola Yadav by his side. In barely audible voice, Lalu whispered a few words for the crowd.
Former Gaya MP Ramji Manjhi, who stood close to Lalu, later told TOI that Lalu said to his supporters, “Itminan se raho. Aaj na kal bahar aa hi jayenge (Take it easy. Sooner or later, I will be out of jail).”
More ‘zindabad’ slogans followed. The train stopped a couple of minutes longer than its scheduled stoppage. As the coach moved, slower than usual, hundreds of supporters kept pace with the coach — till the train chugged away from the platform.
Besides RJD men, a sizeable number of HAM-S activists led by Santosh Manjhi also waited for hours at the platform for the train’s arrival. RJD strongman and ex-minister Surendra Prasad Yadav, ex-MP Ramji Manjhi and party’s district chief Md Nizam, among others, also registered their presence.
Asked what makes Lalu survive crisis after crisis, JD (U) rebel and ex-Speaker Udai Narain Chaudhary said Lalu was not an individual, but a social idea that symbolised the suppressed and partially fulfilled ambitions and aspirations of the underdog. “Ideas outlive the propounder,” he said and added the more attempts would be made to fetter Lalu, the stronger would be the political force on his side.