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Go figure!

Laloo declared assets at Rs 52 lakh, but his daughter's wedding cost Rs 3 cr. Odd?
PTI | By Nalini Singh
UPDATED ON APR 29, 2004 02:28 PM IST

With declared assets of Rs 52 lakh, Laloo Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi organised a wedding extravaganza for their daughter that was rumoured to cost Rs 3 crore. Odd, isn’t it?

Spread on the table before me is a synopsis of Laloo Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi’s assets sworn on affidavit: Rs 7.5 lakh and Rs 44.5 lakh respectively, 50 cows and 31 calves included. Handsome crossbred Holsteins, each a 30-litre lady. But it simply doesn’t add up.

Exactly two years ago, in the company of D.P. Yadav, Chhagan Bhujbal and a clutch of Bihar MPs, I flew by a special Indian Airlines flight to Patna, to Laloo Yadav’s daughter’s wedding, taking abundant care to buy my

own ticket. Days earlier, Laloo’s brothers-in-law, Subhash and Sadhu Yadav, had plundered Patna’s auto showrooms and sofa stores, and helped themselves gratis to brand new Qualises and velvet-upholstered furniture, all for the wedding. And indeed, the plundered Qualises glinted in the sun at the airport, lined up to receive the 69 guests on this flight.

As the CM’s Patna residence at 1, Anne Marg showcased the opulence and scale of the bandobast that evening, it was actually ‘The Buggy’ that emerged as a symbol of the Laloo brand. The buggy was actually a glittering gold and black carriage, with red leather seats, festooned with orchid bouquets. Two handsome stallions drew the carriage, bearing the bridegroom. Immaculate, classy, this carriage had been drafted from one of Bihar’s former princely zamindari estates.

But for me this carriage, carrying the son-in-law, was also carrying ideology full circle.  Laloo and his socialist ancestors had fought the zamindars and rebelled against feudal families, and especially against their clever modus operandi. The zamindars’ modus was to surround themselves with pomp, strike awe among ordinary people with this spectacle, and then prey ruthlessly on the inferiority that it bred. And as I walked into the segregated blocks in the wedding pandal that evening, I saw how Laloo had helped himself to this feudal strategy.

Six mega pandals had been decorated by designers from Kolkata and Bangalore, a hair-raising melange of Durga puja and Fashion Week. Glittering chandeliers, hundreds of 1,000-Watt bulbs bedazzled the normally powerless Patna. Just the light-hiring charges would have to run into seven figures. The bride and her sisters were outfitted in Bollywood tinsel.But one roofless pandal was reserved exclusively for Laloo’s downtrodden, who sat mesmerised, paralysed with awe. Laloo didn’t allow them to leave this section, or to stir out of the area demarcated for them.

It was like the rigid stratification at the Republic Day parade — additional secretaries and above sit with the Lt. Generals and the diplomats, joint secretaries with the minor PSU chiefs.

The village invitees accepted the ‘hum log/tum log’ divide as a God-ordained differentiator. And if any one as much as moved, Laloo shouted orders on a cordless mike, “Baithiye, bowraye kahan bhag rahe hain.” The sidelined, impoverished visitors became quieter, but not resentfully so.

But I digress. The point is, how much did the wedding cost, who paid, and what’s the link with the sworn affidavit? My friend, the Congress MP from Bihar, calculated the expenses on the wedding meticulously, and pronounced, “Rs 3 crore!” Did friends and acquaintances pay for the marriage expenses? But what about that kill-joy provision that a chief minister or family can’t accept gifts, lest it become an office of profit?

Laloo has three other nubile daughters, not to mention two sons. That’s another Rs 10-12 crore, at today’s pomp-index. But if, by the time the next wedding rolls by, Laloo decides to bestow a steeper dose of ‘pride’ on his downtrodden folk by staging a grander show, this estimate will be smashed.

Now how is Laloo going to stretch his and Rabri’s combined declared wealth of Rs 52 lakh to Rs 12 crore, just for the nuptials, add to which a modest sum of Rs 3 lakh per month as living expenses for their family of eight children, and their children, including air tickets to Mumbai and Boston?

Lalooji, we’re talking about consumption expenditure of Rs 15 crore in the next few years. Your only productive assets are a private house in Patna (Rs 16 lakh), swatches of unirrigated land, and 50 cattle and 31 calves. So what’s your business plan? I wouldn’t bank on milking these assets for many crores.

Come to think of it, with declared assets of Rs 52 lakh, how did you mount a wedding extravaganza rumoured to cost Rs 3 crore, not to mention your eldest daughter’s wedding four years ago, for which the income tax department rapped you on the knuckles?

It is said every institution has in it the seed to turn it into its opposite. Your ‘assets’ have the seed of turning them into your liability. Unless you have other cash cows lined up... But today, going by your affidavit and sworn testimonies of countless VIP candidates, it just doesn’t add up.

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