Lalu Prasad Turns Into Jack Welch
I have been tracking Laloo (not Lalu as he calls himself now) for a long time. I got fascinated by this rustic man with tremendous wit and humour ten years back. I also knew he was the smartest operator in Indian politics - anybody who can install his wife, with a primary education , as the chief minister has to be really a smart cookie. He also gave a voice to the downtrodden.
But the lower castes in Bihar under his patronage started doing what the upper castes had indulged in-plunder, terror and exploitation. The state treasury was shamelessly looted by Laloo and his cronies. The state went back in time. But Laloo survived through his buffoonery and political savvy.
I had to follow his motorcade once on a drive from Gaya to Patna. Laloo had just lost the lok sabha elections and you expected him to be down. But he was irrepressible on the route. The route itself was lined with his supporters on both sides - thousands of emaciated, bare torsoed men and children cheered him as he went by. I had to follow his motorcade as nobody in Bihar can overtake him. Laloo stopped in four places where he opened the door of the car, put his feet up and had samosas and jalebis offered by the locals. He got down in a few places to give im promptu speeches.One interaction went like this.
Village Youth : We do not have jobs. Can you help us? You did not give us jobs when in power ?
Laloo:What have you studied? Do you speak English? Do you know computers ?
Village Youth: (now befuddled and embarrassed) No.
Laloo: The government at the centre now is not allowing me to expand employment in Bihar. They allow only multinational companies who want candidates with knowledge of English and computers.
The entire village then starts cursing the centre.
Laloo has a unique way to use humour and twisted logic to set his own agenda in a conversation.
He is now employing the same tactics in portraying himself as the great turnaround specialist of railways. Anyone with a modicum of experience in running an organisation knows, that it takes much more than allowing a bureaucrat a free hand (which is all he seems to have done) to achieve any sort of improvement. For an organisation of the size, complexity and mindset of the railways obviously it would take enormous effort to make any dents.
The railways have started delivering results possibly because of a) initiatives already in place before b) economy growing c) factors in the transport sector d)some changes brought about by Laloo's team e) other environmental drivers.
But the media is portraying him as a management genius.He has been given the entire credit for the performance.This is absurd.I also suspect management schools are playing to the gallery in this.
Nobody who has mismanged a state badly for so long can overnight become a genius like this. This is simply not human nature.