The Media And Laloos Jail Yatra

BY Ajai Kumar| IN Media Practice | 16/04/2002
The Media And Laloos Jail Yatra

The Media And Laloos Jail Yatra

Former Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav`s visit to Ranchi to surrender before the CBI Court in fodder scam case, became a major media event. For two days it appeared that some great leader was going to jail for a larger social goal like Gandhi’s Dandi march. More than a thousand vehicles accompanyed this shrewd politician to Ranchi. The yatra(march ) was really different from other marches like Advani’s rath yatra, Sunil Dutt’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and even his mentor Chandra Shekhar’s Padyatra. His cavalcade was not of common people of the state but a band of leaders of his party, right from ministers to even street level local politicians, power brokers and contractors. The scene was similar to the election campaign of any ruling party.

Mr Yadav was going to serve another jail term in multi-crore fodder scam of one of the poorest states of this country. The magnitude of this scam was so great that it was almost half of the Plan budget of Bihar, and more than the actual expenditure on development annually. The scam money was mercilessly spent by these scamsters not only in purchasing plots and houses in posh colonies of metros but some of them even went to the extent of financing films. Film actress such as Mamta Kulkarni and other Mumbai-based dancers were invited for their entertainment by paying lakhs of rupees.

Laloo Yadav is a master media manager and he knows how to stay in media limelight. Whatever he says particularly before media, becomes news having only entertainment value. People kept laughing while seeing him on TV saying "Sher ja raha hai aur gidar sab bhag rahe hain", or Bail nahi milega to matha phore lenge kya ya hawa me ure jainge.., Hum apne bahut khurafati hain mere sath e log kya khurafat karega." The media vied with one other for maximum coverage of Laloo’s Jail Yatra. TV news channels had running commentary to this event: "Now Laloo has crossed Bihar border, he will not reach Ranchi before mid night". Their cameras were strategically placed on the top of the Garib Rath in which this former Chief Minister was travelling.

The war in Afganistan , the debate on POTO, Benazir’s visit and everything else became secondary. Right from the morning, Aaj Tak and Zee TV tried to capture everything including every nonsensical syllable Laloo Prasad uttered. They went even to ask how he slept in the night; what he took in his breakfast before leaving for this great march. Senior reporters from Delhi landed at Patna and Ranchi for special coverage.

This is not for the first time he was going to jail. In the last four years he has visited jail five times, though most of the time has been spent in the police guesthouse and hospital enjoying every comfort. This time he planned this event to make it a big tamasha to deflect the people’s attention from the core issue as to why he was going to jail! And the electronic media and local Hindi newspapers fell for the gambit.

Bihar is not only Laloo Prasad Yadav. If he alone can make news for Bihar, then definitely media is doing gross injustice to this state. It is failing to capture the larger canvas of one of the most sensitive, neglected, yet culturally rich states in the country.

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