From being a pioneer in social engineering to emerging as a management guru of sorts, RJD chief Lalu Prasad transformed after taking charge as the Railways Minister in 2004.
After having ceded political turf to Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) in the 2005 state elections, Prasad set about to prove he was much more than just some country bumpkin.
Putting his best ‘management’ foot forward, Prasad launched the air-conditioned ‘Garib Rath’ trains with the lowest fares in the class. He did not hike passenger fares, but permitted a ‘super-fast’ surcharge on passenger fares. He initiated ‘Tatkal’ ticket scheme and levied a ‘development’ surcharge on passenger fares.
When he demitted office in 2009, Prasad claimed to have left behind a surplus of `90,000 crore. His successor Mamata Banerjee, however, contested these claims. “He never interfered in operational matters and was always open to new ideas,”, then Chairman Railway Board JP Batra said.
Incidentally, Prasad’s image makeover did not translate into political dividends. “The metamorphosis in his personality was too radical and unacceptable to his constituents. His visits to Bihar during the period were few and far between. His opponents started calling him a non-resident Bihari during the period”, one RJD member said.