IF veteran Bihar politician Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav has an obvious Achilles' heel, it is son Prakash Chandra Yadav, also known as Baby. Nominated in 1992 by Laloo Prasad Yadav to the state legislative council, Baby is the archetypal cow-belt politician—equally at home in many parties.
His propensity to get into trouble, though, invariably gets activated in his avatar as a Congressman. Much before the fertiliser scam became public, Prakash hit the headlines in Calcutta. On the balmy evening of September 19, 1985, Baby and his aides were caught pants down, literally, at Calcutta's notorious Kar-nani Mansion near Park Street. He was one of the many caught in a swoop, along with 20-odd sex workers. At the police station, he gave a wrong name. Meanwhile, strings were pulled and a bail obtained from the Bankshall court, where a clever lawyer identified him as an MP from Bihar. When the news became public, Baby and father claimed the whole thing was politically motivated.
By 1988, the family had become distinguished 'educationists', with the biggest network of colleges in Bihar. But running colleges also entailed payment to the staff, something Baby detested. In 1988, a protesting teachers' union member was brutally beaten up by Baby and his thugs outside the Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav College in Patna. Later, Baby put out several full-page advertisements in newspapers proclaiming innocence—most, of course, took it with a grain of salt.
The fallout of all the publicity was that Rajiv Gandhi denied him a party ticket in the 1989 elections. He tried his hands at a Janata Dal ticket in 1991, but lost. In 1994, he again confirmed his penchant for headlines. Travelling from Bombay to Delhi on an Indian Airlines' executive class ticket, an inebriated Baby made life hell for passing airhostesses. He asked them to join him and, when things didn't quite turn out that easy, he threw a few things around. He also got abusive with co-passenger Rukhsana Sultan, a Sanjay Gandhi aide who passed away recently. Recalls Captain V.K. Bhalla, who was in command then: "I had to put on my cap, walk out of the cockpit and talk stern with him. He cooled down after that."
Baby hit big time when his father took charge of the low-profile but cash-rich fertiliser ministry under Narasimha Rao. "Prakash was the de facto boss. Not a single important file moved without his say-so," reveals an official. During this time, Rea Brothers—now accused in the urea deal—came into existence. Ministry sources say National Fertiliser Limited chief C.K. Ramkrishnan, currently in CBI custody, had one of the cleanest records but was under tremendous pressure from Prakash to finalise the deal with Karsan.
CBI sleuths have identified two Turkish officials—Tunkay Alankus and Cihar Karanci—Prakash was in constant touch with and who signed the deal in India in December '95. The CBI is also looking at the property Prakash acquired afterwards. The MTNL has been asked to produce all records of Prakash's telephonic conversations in the last six months. The evidence could become pretty watertight. But can it be matched politically?