February 22, 2020
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Laloo I: Media Coy

Laloo I: Media Coy
THE English media loves the artless bucolic who emerges from the underbelly of society to capture political power. Journalists invest these Devi Lal-like characters with a kind of earthiness, native wisdom and directness that slick city politicians can never hope to possess. Loud of voice, grand of gesture, dispensing folksy anecdotes, they seem to represent the real India. The media honeymoon never lasts long. The feudalism that has dogged their lives soon comes to the fore: in their exercise of power, and in their proprietorial attempts to retain it. Chautala and Meham occur. Power is a jagir. To be guarded with a lathi.

More than anyone else of his tribe, Laloo Prasad Yadav had a passionate and rather protracted honeymoon with the media. Laloo had unmatched chutzpah. Big time attitude. He had the ability to convert all his weak suites, his peon brothers, his pet cow, his wife Rabri Devi and a flock of children into winning hands. It was a wonderful verbal gift: colourful, creative, designed to poke holes in the urbane, while celebrating the bumptious. Laloo made for fantastic copy, and the media lavished space and time on him. He reciprocated in kind.

But now that he's been caught with his pyjamas in a twist, he's rounded on the media. He's not the first politician to have discovered that the media is inconsiderate, intrusive, insensitive, the moment it's stopped massaging his ego. From Mrs Gandhi to Rajiv to Kanshi Ram, it's the same pattern. They forget, as Enoch Powell said, "politicians who complain about the media are like ship captains who complain about the sea."

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