Telegraph Calcutta

Khol do: Saadat Hasan Manto

They are open. Did you hear that? They who had been shut down are now open. It has been so proclaimed to the public at large and has since become a fact known to all who care to keep themselves informed. Even teetar, that most reliable bird, has been warbling aloud: teet, teet, teet, teet, teet, teet, teet… like the ticking of a bomb to countdown, and then TWEET!! Boom!! The shutter blown. But there were several shutters, and not all of them have been blown. It takes more than a boom to shatter all the shutters. But there has been the sound of one boom and that boom has opened one shutter. There. Declared open. And we must trust this opening because it is those that shut the place who have now announced it open. You can go. We can go. Shall we go?

But….

But? What but? It’s butt, not but. That’s the way to spell it: butt. Not buts. They are open. You can go. As a matter of fact, and of diktat, you must go. It is your national duty to go. You will be failing in your national duty if you do not go. And should you fail in your national duty to go, you know what will follow. You will be asked to go to Bakistan instead. Samjhey? You can be one of two things — national or anti-national. If you are national, you head to where it has just been opened. If you are anti-national, you must travel a little farther. Step across the Line. You know what lies across that Line. The Line of no returns. Samjhey? Chalte bano, get going.

Should we go? They are now open.

Yes, of course. We are now open. We have been commanded: Khol Do! Come. Visit us. Have what you can of us. We know we are open because we now have no option. We only ever know what we are told. We only ever do what we are told. Khol Do! We have been normal for many, many weeks now. And now we are also open. Welcome! And bring nothing along, for we have all that you will require. You see, things do not work here the way they work where you might be. The thing is things do not work here. Nothing works. That is the way we are, so bring nothing along because nothing will work here. And we do not have use any more for all those things that do not work. And that is just as well. We do with far fewer things. We do with far fewer words. We do with no news, which is good news. We are the good news. Welcome to good news. Which is the same thing as silence.

We have been altered and amended since we were shut down. Cut to size and calibrated in entirely new ways. We have been rendered more wondrous than we could, ever could, have hoped to become. Our lakes and rivers now flow vertical, ramrod straight, our bridges stand tall, our birds coming flying in tilted against the sky, like fighter-bombers swerve and swivel in a dogfight and leave the enemy stunned. Our skies, well of course, our skies are to our left, our ground to our right, we hang betwixt, magically suspended, sideways, mind you, looking down upon a bottomless abyss (because, in truth, there is no ground beneath our feet) where fish are flying, and look up to… we cannot yet make out what it is above us that we look up to, but it could well be those that shut us down, and those that have now declared us open. That’s where the sounds of command come from: Khol Do! That’s where the announcement came from, like Aakashvaani: We are open. We had a period of normality, but now we are open.

Open Sesame

Open Sesame!!

But what’s this darken hollow?

Please! Just tell me its name.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/khol-do-saadat-hasan-manto/cid/1711244?ref=opinion_opinion-page

Telegraph Calcutta

Allowed One Word Every Sentence

Sentenced. Punished. Done. Taaaliyaan! Done. Finger. Fingerprint. Fist. Fisted. Gone. Article. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Devastated. Faith. Future. Divided. Demoted. Diminished. Defaced. Dumbed. Downed. People. Babies. Toddlers. Flailing. Falling. Unknowing. Children. Boys. Girls. Teenagers. Distraught. Men. Women. Women! Elders. Dying. Bereft. Blind. Destitute. Arrivees. Departees. Folks. Hugs. Meetings. Partings. Laughter. Tears. Notes. Syllables. Broken. Sundered. Endearment. Entrapment. Truth. Treason. Souls. Bodies. Eyes. Brows. Ears. Lobes. Noses. Nostrils. Limbs. Skulls. Faces. Cheeks. Chins. Necks. Armpits. Shoulders. Bones. Chests. Ribs. Bellies. Bulk. Abdomens. Sagging. Kidneys. Livers. Intestines. Big. Diseased. Small. Insufficient. Orifices. Privates. Hmm. Backs. Thighs. Muscles. Knees. Shins. Calves. Feet. Hands. Palms. Lines. Futures. Veins. Arteries. Surgeries. Hearts. Loves. Jokes. Ours. Theirs. Friends. Relations. Acquaintances. Cold. Calm. Cautious. Enemies. Nobodys. Somebodys. Appearances. Disappearances. Priests. Pagans. Charlatans. Messiahs. Doomsayers. Innocents. Infidels. Invaders. Infiltrators. Insiders. Outsiders. Vigilance. Violence. Locks. Chains. Shutters. Wires. Spools. Guns. Swords. Daggers. Mallets. Pellets. Muskets. Shadows. Stones. Spoils. Cities. Towns. Neighbourhoods. Villages. Hamlets. Riverbanks. Lakesides. Meadows. Fields. Harvests. Gold. Sun. Sky. Cloud. Silver. Mud. Moons. Lunacy. Flies. Fires. Fumes. Fuming. Homes. Rooms. Doors. Stairs. Bricks. Mortar. Timber. Floors. Roofs. Chimneys. Smoke. Hearths. Warmth. Wariness. Weariness. Dovecotes. Divides. Mezzanines. Walls. Partitions. Suspicions. Families. Frailty. Fratricide. Company. Solitude. Highways. Streets. Alleys. Nooks. Corners. Culdesacs. Footpaths. Slopes. Climbs. Confidences. Silences. Screaming. Moaning. Weeping. Fearing. Dreaming. Nightmaring. Blinking. Shutting. Imagining. Hell. Imagining. Heaven. Imagining. Then. Imagining. Now. Imagining. Tomorrow. Oh! No. Retract. Rewind. Back. Back. Back. Back. Okay. Paradise. Past. Gone. Rabba! Dead. Everything. Phones. Lines. Wires. Cables. Signals. Snapped. Screens. Smart. Hah! Really? Smarting. Gagged. Dead. Messages. Missives. Threats. Admissions. Revelations. Information. Conspiracy. Whispers. Collaborations. Contrary. Conflicted. Belonging. Betrayal. Fences. Crossings. Voices. Words. Urgencies. Pleas. Pleading. Prayer. Cries. Outcry. Outrage. Smothered. Speak! Yessir. Speak!! Don’t. Howl. Rage. Rant. Ravage. Well. Well. Depths. Darkness. Echoes. Escapes. Returns. Abyss. All. Down. Lost. Bellowing. Hollering. Bellowing. Hollering. Silence. Silence. Silence. Birds. Mallards. Ducks. Pigeons. Cranes. Swans. Owls. Singing. Songs. Hoot. Hoot. Dying. Wings. Flapping. Arriving. Diving. Swooping. Swimming. Settling. Laying. Warbling. Waddling. Unaware. Wings. Clipped. Shot. Fluttering. Squawking. Bleeding. Done. Downed. Unbothered.

Unconcerned. Colours. Carmine. Darkening. Shrouds. Blacken. Swooping. Muffling. Wails. Wailing. Breasts. Beating. Breasts. Feeding. Breasts. Stilled. Breasts. Eaten. Breasts. Thrown. Breasts. Enjoyed. Breasts. Bereft. Breasts? No. More. Ventricles. Cold. Dry. Khushk. Seasons. Trees. Colours. Shades. Leaves. Rusting. Roosting. Flaming. Falling. Shrivelling. Apples. Ripening. Dropping. Rotting. Juices. Oozing. Seeping. Flowing. Drying. Wasting. Stinking. Labours. Lost. Favours. Denied. Fears. Found. Detention. Arrest. Gates. Closed. Concertina. Cuts. Curtained. Laced. Access. Blocked. Orders. Pronounced. Boots. Polished. Armour. Plated. Intention. Unmoving. No. No. No. Help.

Sought. Plea. Made. Petition. Filed. Justice. Hugs. Recommended. Manacles. Employed. Numbers. Dialled. Dialled. Dialled. Dialled. Again. And. Again.

This. Call. Cannot. Be. Completed.

Telegraph Calcutta

The new improved tapeworm epidemic

This was always going to happen. We spoke. We spoke sharp words. So we were spoken to. We were spoken to with shrapnel words. Cuts were caused, and worse: gashes, and a cleaving of flesh and soul, as you might often have witnessed being caused at the back of a butcher’s. Seldom a civilised thing for the exchange of words to become the consequence of the exchange of weapons. But it happens often.

And that may also be because we are no longer talking civilisation. We may be talking the clash of civilisations. And when civilisations clash, we have known most often for them not to clash with words; the words are there, of course, this Book versus that Book, but for each Book, there has been blood to be let. Those Books have blood on them, the blood of those that the Books were written for as scripts of salvation: humans. Us. We fought for Books and we bloodied each other. Through time that is longer than time we can measure. Those Books were written with pens. The battles over those Books were fought with swords. And those battles have not yet been resolved or rested. The Pen is still battling the Sword.

But, ah. There are better means of battling, more approved ways. There’s Democracy. Hai naa? We have moved in from medieval ways and mores. We are more civilised. We are democrats. We have constitutions and all the provisions it may contain, or may be amended to contain.And constitutions are not medieval things: they are agreed upon things. Benign things.

They eddy with words. And the violence of words. There can be nothing as violent as words. Not violence itself. Non-violence is the most effective form of violence, we know that, do we not? It is that violence we employed to throw off Empire. Hai naa?

So here’s the constitution, again. You were cut? You were slashed? You are bleeding? Hmm. Constitutions can do that, used in the right fashion. Or abused. You know what I mean. Let us help. Let us stop the bleeding. Let us sew up the cuts and slashes and gashes. There is the thing called tape. Bleeding? Bring the tape. Quick. Groaning? Bring the tape. Quick. Complaining? Bring the tape. Quick. Talking? Oh please bring the tape. QUICK. Going to court!? QUICK. QUICKTIME. Bring the tape. Stick it. Plaster it all across, and securely. Tape. Tape. Tape.

Do you not know how to treat a patient suffering? Do you not know how to treat a patient complaining? Do you not know how to treat a patient bleeding? Do you not know how to treat a patient? Even if it is a patient of your own creation? Even though it is a patient you bled? Even though it is a patient you caused pain? Even though it is a patient you brought in here? Even though it is a patient you wanted put to death? But no, this is a patient you want out to death but you want the world to believe you are bringing to life. Trying your utmost to keep smiling and saying, ah, what loveliness this punishment is, but I shall survive, in the larger interest. In the interest of the nation, whatever nation it is that you wish to call it. There, you said it. There, you nailed it. There, you said it like what it is.

Because nobody says it like it is. Put a tape on it. And that will take care of it. Tape things. Tape those bleeding hearts so they are able to speak no more, only beat. Tape. And eventually it will all stop.

They say I use chains

But never believe their lies

That hurts and that pains

Look! I’m liberating butterflies.

Telegraph Calcutta

The new improved tapeworm epidemic

This was always going to happen. We spoke. We spoke sharp words. So we were spoken to. We were spoken to with shrapnel words. Cuts were caused, and worse: gashes, and a cleaving of flesh and soul, as you might often have witnessed being caused at the back of a butcher’s. Seldom a civilised thing for the exchange of words to become the consequence of the exchange of weapons. But it happens often.

And that may also be because we are no longer talking civilisation. We may be talking the clash of civilisations. And when civilisations clash, we have known most often for them not to clash with words; the words are there, of course, this Book versus that Book, but for each Book, there has been blood to be let. Those Books have blood on them, the blood of those that the Books were written for as scripts of salvation: humans. Us. We fought for Books and we bloodied each other. Through time that is longer than time we can measure. Those Books were written with pens. The battles over those Books were fought with swords. And those battles have not yet been resolved or rested. The Pen is still battling the Sword.

But, ah. There are better means of battling, more approved ways. There’s Democracy. Hai naa? We have moved in from medieval ways and mores. We are more civilised. We are democrats. We have constitutions and all the provisions it may contain, or may be amended to contain.

And constitutions are not medieval things: they are agreed upon things. Benign things.

They eddy with words. And the violence of words. There can be nothing as violent as words. Not violence itself. Non-violence is the most effective form of violence, we know that, do we not? It is that violence we employed to throw off Empire. Hai naa?

So here’s the constitution, again. You were cut? You were slashed? You are bleeding? Hmm. Constitutions can do that, used in the right fashion. Or abused. You know what I mean. Let us help. Let us stop the bleeding. Let us sew up the cuts and slashes and gashes. There is the thing called tape. Bleeding? Bring the tape. Quick. Groaning? Bring the tape. Quick. Complaining? Bring the tape. Quick. Talking? Oh please bring the tape. QUICK. Going to court!? QUICK. QUICKTIME. Bring the tape. Stick it. Plaster it all across, and securely. Tape. Tape. Tape.

Do you not know how to treat a patient suffering? Do you not know how to treat a patient complaining? Do you not know how to treat a patient bleeding? Do you not know how to treat a patient? Even if it is a patient of your own creation? Even though it is a patient you bled? Even though it is a patient you caused pain? Even though it is a patient you brought in here? Even though it is a patient you wanted put to death? But no, this is a patient you want out to death but you want the world to believe you are bringing to life. Trying your utmost to keep smiling and saying, ah, what loveliness this punishment is, but I shall survive, in the larger interest. In the interest of the nation, whatever nation it is that you wish to call it. There, you said it. There, you nailed it. There, you said it like what it is.

Because nobody says it like it is. Put a tape on it. And that will take care of it. Tape things. Tape those bleeding hearts so they are able to speak no more, only beat. Tape. And eventually it will all stop.

They say I use chains

But never believe their lies

That hurts and that pains

Look! I’m liberating butterflies.

Telegraph Calcutta

What we knew, we also forgot

There is what we know, and there is what we don’t know, and there is what we are yet to know. But there is more than that, and that is not the end of it. There is also what we knew or know and have forgotten or chosen to. The sound of grass growing, for instance. Or the emerging rhythms of water before they decided to deign to gravity and descend and make of us what water has made of us.

There are among the things that we know, or are about to know, things that we knew and no longer care to. Like we once knew, or were told, that Truth alone wins, Satyamev Jayate! And look what’s winning. Like we used to say all men, and women, are equal and that sort of thing. Which thought we have thoroughly revised now and moved on brusquely; no, nothing is equal, might is right, jiski lathi type of very convinced and confident thing. Jo hai, so hai. Or like we used to say Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, all the world is a family.

And now we have moved on to forgetting and believe that was the sort of nonsense that deserves to have been binned and shot away from vision a long time ago. VasudhaKutumb? What? Our own are not our own, or do not deserve to be our own. They need to be taught lessons in how to be our own. Hard lessons, lessons they will remember a long, long time and forget hard. There is no Vasudha. No Kutumb. Understand? There are things we may have known. We no longer know them. It does not suit us anymore. You know what suits us.

Sometimes I look at earth and the thought comes along what we might have been without earth. Not Earth, as in the planet we inhabit, but earth, with an “e” in lower case. There is, truth be told, nothing as noble as soil. But, truth be told again, we do not make it that. We begin to imagine we own nobility. We begin to imagine we own soil. Such are we; so suicidally deluded are we. We begin to assert ownership over the soil that we are going to eventually be consumed by — in a cask, in a pot, as embers and as ash. Hello, I am Soil, and who are you?

We make it my soil. We make it your soil. Which is the soil of the earth. Not with the capital E, but with the “e” with a lower case. It could be, you know, the earth on which Vetaal rests, and Vetaal is not on Earth’s earth, he, or it, is on Moon’s earth. Believe me, Vetaal has landed. On earth. On soil. But what soil? What earth? Whose soil? Whose earth? The only soil we have. We come from the soil, the soil it is that receives our ends. There is no greater truth than the soil. Not for us. We are mortals. We are of the soil. We come from it, we go back to it. As ash. As flesh. As all that happens between the acquisition of mobile flesh and flesh immobile. Soil. Dharti. Maa. It’s what begets us. It’s what accepts our remains. It’s why we worship it such: Maa. Everyone has a mother, everyone. And are we to begin to argue here that one Maa is greater than the other Maa, or lesser than the other Maa? Maa! Please do not allow me to become such a person. Please do not allow me to become a person who claims that you, Maa, is greater or lesser than another Maa, because that would mean me judging the very idea and reality of Maa, and I do not ever, forgive me, wish myself to be sitting on that sort of judgement, Maa.

Aye watan, aye watan

Everybody, sing that song

Beat your drum, swing your baton

And let’s see where we belong.

Telegraph Calcutta

So see you on the other side

Nothing’s there that isn’t without fences. There are jurisdictions in spaces, jurisdictions beyond distances that can be imagined, abstract distances. Walk a mile, then think of a trillion miles and tell me that it is not both abstract and intangible. And there are fences there too, satellites and mechanical landers and roamers and trodders flying flags and screaming nationalities: Hoorrayyyy! We were here first, and the first thing we did was to put down a fence and nail our proprietorial signature on it. But why travel distances mortal you and I cannot even imagine, or if we try to, the limits of our imagination will snap like rubber bands in an idle boy’s palms? Why go all that far? Look out the window and look up the sky. If you can, that is. If the fences already do not obliterate the sky, that is.

Put down that volume of poetry, forget the poems that yearn the freedom of the skies. There are enough of them littered about, and they’ve been feeding you erroneous and fanciful bilge all this while. Free skies. Freedom of the skies. The openness of the skies. Blah. Blah. Blah. Ah. Ah. Ah. Ha. Ha. Ha. Bunkum. What a mirage. Send up a Mirage, and see how it tears up the sky. Kryuuuuumzz! Kryooooooooomzzzooomm! Send up a Mirage and watch the fences pop up in the skies. There will be, almost immediately, a counter Kryuuuuumzzzz!! Another menacing bird in flight, another one marking the fence.

Violate the fence at your own peril, whoever it is that wishes to violate that fence. Perhaps you cannot see the fence in those open skies but the fence there is, trespassers will be deemed trespassers and most often they will be prosecuted.

A kite cuts the sky, the pigeons fall away, that’s how fences are carved in the skies. There are fences everywhere.

Often they are most insistent where you cannot see them. There is a fence between the caller on a phone and the receiver; it can be bridged, it can as easily be snapped. The throw of a switch and kooooooooon. Dead. The road in front of you has a fence. Yes, you’ve probably ridden it often at a hundred kilometres an hour, or crossed it zipper-speed, but a wire can get pulled across it. Or a barrier. Gone. Fenced. You’re done. Or that river I sit across, gurgling away, furiously frothing. That river. You crossed it yesterday. Today it’s a fence. Try stepping in; it will drown you, or sweep you away where you shan’t surface alive. Or the mountain you see across the river. Beauteous, isn’t it?

But what do you think it is if not a fence? What do you think lies beyond it? Why would you think they transgressed it? That mountain, it’s a fence and we are fortunate it is. Or the land underlying that mountain. Plain. Flat. Arable. Fallow. Placid. But land. And you see no fence? You fool! Have you read your Mahabharata? Have you measured the plot you live on, if you are fortunate to have such a plot to live on? Or family. Hmm. No fences in family? Grow up. Then talk to me. Sexes. People. Provinces. Regions. Languages. Ethnicities. Races. Colours. Nations. And nations within nations. You think there are no fences? You think those are birds? You mean you cannot see a set of barbed things? We shall talk, if we do meet. On the other side.

What are they, not swallows
Do check again your lens
Hear me and try to follow
There’s always, forever, a fence.

Bihar, Telegraph Calcutta

Lalu Prasad: Autumn of the Patriarch

The mercurial Lalu Prasad has finally been pushed off stage and an epoch is whimpering to demise

Zero. It has never been this bad; it cannot get any worse.

Or it probably still can.

It is one thing for Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to have drawn a blank in the Lok Sabha this summer; it is quite another for him to have nobody around to take that blank and build on it. The party, as it used to be under Lalu’s helmsmanship, is over. Bihar’s once fabled and formidable House of Yadu has become the shape of a pack of cards tumbled upon itself.

Here’s what fragments of a clan in collapse can look like up close. The confetti of serial abuse of power and public office floating about the defeated air; there are bills to be paid yet, and someone will come knocking. The unseemly rites of a turbulent son’s ruptured marriage playing out on the doorstep. Spewing from within, grim tales of competing grouses and internecine family feuding — son versus son, daughter versus mother, sister versus brother; in the absence of the arraigned father, there’s nothing to quell the quarrelling over what may remain. The man he left behind in charge having also skipped station. There’s nobody around to pick up the pieces.

The Bihar Assembly came into session this Friday. Tejashwi, who leads the Opposition benches, wasn’t there. There were rumours he’d turn up, but they turned out to be rumours. Tejashwi Yadav has been gone from the scene a long and inexplicable while. So long and so inexplicable that his own ranks have begun to wonder if he’s interested in his bequeathed job. So long and so inexplicable that Lalu no longer bothers with worrying, what would be the point? He is 71 and ill. He is incarcerated on a medley of corruption convictions and charges in Jharkhand. The circumstances of his coiled labyrinth allow him to do so much and no more. Tejashwi has stopped to heed his command. Where is Tejashwi? In Delhi. Probably. But he will come. Oh look, he has already tweeted a long distance hello to “My dear Bihar!” on the plea of orthopaedic treatment that nobody hitherto knew of. Bihar should rest assured.

Lalu wanted Tejashwi to stay on the deck and take the storm, like he himself had often done in the past. Tejashwi was in such a rush to get away, he did not wait to cast his vote this election. Tejashwi was not drawn to the hollering tragedy of 130-odd children snuffed out by encephalitis in Muzaffarpur. Tejashwi did not arrive to lead his flock in an Assembly that faces re-election just next year. Tejashwi has been gone from Patna a whole month. Tejashwi is Lalu’s chosen mantle-bearer. Such as that mantle is; it has zero freshly inscribed on it.

Political obituaries can turn treacherous on their authors. When they are about someone like Lalu, feisty and defiant through his roller-coaster life, they can turn and sting too.

This is not a political obituary. This is a Doctrine of Lapse notification. Lalu has a legacy, but those he entrusted it to have bungled it. The entity central to Bihar’s politics for three decades is tearing out like a meteor in tailspin.

This is the first election of his political career that Lalu stood barred from turning up to campaign; this is not the first time he has lost, but this is the first time the RJD can hear what death-rattle sounds like.

Consider this: Based on the Lok Sabha results — a stunning 39 out of 40 for the NDA — the RJD managed to win a little more than a dozen seats in the 243-member Bihar Assembly. Tej Pratap, Lalu’s elder and maverick son, lost the Mahua seat by more than 10,000 votes.

Tejashwi held on to Raghopur by its membranes, barely 200-odd votes. Misa, the eldest of Lalu’s children, lost the Yadav borough of Patliputra a second time running, bested once again by Ram Kripal Yadav, once Lalu’s trusted protégé.

Everything suggests a daylight heist on the Yadav vote which once kept Lalu securely banked in power. 2014 was probably the first sign Narendra Modi had disrupted traditional voter behaviour and snatched away a section of Yadav loyalty from Lalu. 2019 is resounding confirmation of not merely a drift away from Lalu but of a new polarisation behind the BJP and its Bihar allies. Nearly 40 per cent of the Yadav vote has shifted base; there is little to suggest on the ground that number will not mount. The RJD has been turfed out across its traditional Yadav strongholds — from Madhepura and Saharsa, from Saran and Siwan and Sonepur, from Maharajganj and Gopalgunj, from Danapur and Maner which, for decades was quite literally the family’s personal backyard. “Laluji ke bina ab kya raha?” asks Jitender Singh, an avowed Lalu loyalist and apologist, “Kuchh bhi kahiye, Laluji neta thhe, ab kaun raha?” (What’s left after Lalu? Say what you will, Lalu was a leader, who’s left?) We are at a tea shack in Maner, about 30 kilometres west of Patna. Jitender can’t stop ruing what’s happened and what’s to come. “I feel for Laluji, I am committed, but look at his children. Why did Misa have to contest the Lok Sabha when she is already in the Rajya Sabha. She is laalchi, greedy. Tej Pratap is a vagrant, nobody knows what he is up to. Tejashwi makes no effort at communicating, spending time with people. They control the party, but nobody has a clue what they are doing or what they have in mind. Kya future hoga?” The anger and the unease is palpable. It can no longer be called a crack in the RJD voter base, it is more akin to a sundering. “Lalu’s party minus Lalu looks like a wipeout,” a senior RJD leader and Lalu’s contemporary says, “Tejashwi and his ranks have failed to deliver, the party is nervous, its faith lies shattered, we are in a mess.”

He wouldn’t go on the record yet with his fears and misgivings, but he believes that time is near. “People in the party will speak out, they will have to. If for nothing else, for sheer survival; Assembly elections stare us in the face and we have just taken our severest blow. What do these results tell the aspiring RJD contestants? That they should be very nervous. What does the response of the party leadership tell them? That they should seek answers and correction.”

Failed Four: Tej Pratap, Misa, Rabri and Tejashwi. Photograph by Sankarshan Thakur

Some of the murmur is already bubbling up in anger. RJD elder and spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari turned blunt at a recent party meeting. “We should take a hard look at how the party is being run,” he is reported to have said, “Laluji’s absence has been a big jolt to us, but we have to figure ways of dealing with that, and if we don’t do that it is over… yeh hamare astitva ka sawal hai… this is a question of our survival.”

Tejashwi has made himself deserving of an in-house chargesheet; it cannot be that the clamour hasn’t reached him, even in his removed camp addresses.

— He ignores his father’s counsel

— He doesn’t consult or respect party elders; he did not allow them to campaign when they were eager to

— He is opaque and often unapproachable; he is also tight-fisted with resources

— He did not take allies on board during the campaign for fear that he would have to share the accolades

— He has made little effort to build a connect with his constituency

— He took whimsical off-days during the heat of the campaign

— He has neither energy nor gut for a fight

— He has no blueprint hereon, none that anybody knows of

— He appears not accountable for the debacle he has presided over

— He is swiftly scattering his inheritance away, at the cost of the party.

“Does Tejashwi know how to win elections, even his own?” That’s a close confidant of Lalu for decades asking. It is probably the most damning question the leader of a political party can be asked. But that question is being asked of Tejashwi by those in the boat who still reckon it can be saved from sinking. “Through the campaign, Tejashwi and his camp kept telling us we were doing well. It turns out we never did as badly. He was either bluffing or was deluded, in both circumstances, his leadership needs to be questioned.”

The worry and scurry in the RJD ranks is not merely on account of the Assembly polls next year. It is not merely because MLAs have begun to individually and collectively wonder if the RJD is a good ticket to ride on, or should the opportunity to jump be taken. It is equally because of the overt manoeuvres they see the adversary making.

From the time of his first foray into Bihar as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2013, Narendra Modi revealed a focused intent to woo Yadavs away from their chief and loved patron. “Yaduvanshi bhaiyon!” he called out to them; he flagged the mythology of Krishna and Dwarka to kindle a kinship. He kept at it, as a work in progress. It wouldn’t be easy to wean Yadavs away from their anointed benefactor, but he has worked with time and with ways. “Don’t forget Yadavs are the most privileged among the backwards castes and they have become used to the stakes and fruits of power,” says a Lalu-era bureaucrat who likes sailing close along the power corridors, “But for a brief spell, Lalu has been out of power nearly 15 years now and his successors hold out no hope they might deliver it any time soon. Lalu may yet enjoy their unshaken sympathy, but that is translating less and less into votes. That’s one key takeaway from this election. The Yadavs will want to stay close to power.”

Narendra Modi may only be too keen to demonstrate to them how. One clue might be the elevation of Nityanand Rai, a Yadav MP from Ujiarpur in north Bihar, as central minister of state for home affairs. Another could well be Bihar’s verdict on the RJD itself: Zero.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/lalu-prasad-autumn-of-the-patriarch/cid/1693429