By Amitabh Srivastava

Frame with the photograph of a uniformed Pervez Musha­rraf, shaking hands with a smiling, kurta-clad Lalu Prasad is gathering cobwebs on the wall of a small room at 10, Circular Road in Patna. On the picture is the former Pakistani president’s hand­written compliments to the former chief minister of Bihar—“To an art­ist of a politician, Laloo Saheb.” The sprawling bungalow in the state capi­tal’s uber-plush locality is allotted to Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi. Between them, the couple administered— many say ruled—Bihar for 15 years, starting in 1990.

It’s 11 a.m. on a particularly humid late June morning, and the “artist” has retired for a siesta at his baithak (meeting room). Having attended to some visitors since 8.30 a.m., Lalu, his hangers-on say, would rest for a cou­ple of hours. There’s little sign of any­one here ruling any place outside the bungalow—at least for now. The doors of the baithak are open, and the air conditioner’s wheezing noise sounds almost like the state of affairs Lalu’s once-powerful party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), is in today.

The contrast could not have been sharper in another bungalow a few kilometres away in Danapur, on the western outskirts of Patna. There are a dozen computers and half-a-dozen
people in six cubicles are frenetical­ly punching away on the keyboards on the first-floor office space in Lalu Prasad’s farmhouse. This is the work­ing office of Tej Pratap Yadav, 27, the elder of Lalu’s two sons, who seems to be emerging as the chosen one to take up the mantle from his battle- weary father. Inside his “war room”, Tej Pratap smiles after reading out the text that Anu Pandey, 22, has juxta­posed with a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It reads: “When will I get my Rs 15 lakh you had promised on poll eve?”

Hands on waist, the grin widens. “Good work. Now post it through all our Facebook accounts, and don’t for­get tagging as many users as you can,”


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