Rashtriya Janata Party (RJD) chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad is notorious for his witty repartees and road-show demagoguery, which often turn into political advantages for him.
From being the accused in Bihar's 1000-crore fodder scam to becoming a mass icon with his rickshaw ride
to the court, or his (in)famous reaction to the increasing number of train accidents in India ("Indian Railways is the responsibility of Lord Vishwakarma") not very long ago - Lalu Prasad has often surprised his opponents with his political theatrics.
So when exit polls conducted by various television channels predicted a poor tally for his party in the Bihar assembly polls, he issued another of his trademark verbal jugglery last week to dismiss the psephology as an exercise in futility. The RJD chief claimed the polls matter a little to his voters, since they "do not read newspapers".
However, his recent banter has not gone down well even with the staunchest of his supporters. Many are calling the rhetoric his "arrogance", while a few are being 'politically correct' by branding it as a reflection of his "over-confidence".
Says Ashfaq Ali, a bookseller in Patna: "Laluji is living in a fools' paradise now. The wind this time is no longer blowing in his favour. If he doesn't realise this, he is going to suffer."
Anunaya Chaubey, Principal of Patna Arts and Crafts College, feels the recent comment presents Bihar as a "haven of illiterates". "Lalu Prasad has cracked a crude joke on the people of Bihar. In a way, he seems to assume that voters here can not make a sound judgement."
Kamal Kishore Prasad, a stenographer in Patna High Court, sounds more bitter. He claims Lalu's "frivolous" remarks will lead to his defeat.
"Lalu ji doesn't know how or what to speak on a particular occasion. He simply thinks he can take people for a ride. People might welcome his witticism once in a while, but in calamity, he must exercise restraint," he says.
With the recent remarks, many are also recalling the RJD chief's "advice" to the flood-ravaged villagers of north Bihar last year, asking them to "relish" fishes when they demanded Roti, Kapda and Makan (Bread, cloth and shelter).
Prasad, whose family house in Madhubani district was washed away in last year's floods, says, " When my family members were left stranded amidst flood waters, the RJD chief asked them to relish fishes. What a cruel joke! It was sheer insensitivity towards our difficulties," he says.
The resentment runs deep and the recent banter, it seems, has inflamed passions. The RJD chief, before shooting his mouth, probably forgot it was time for ballots to speak!
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