PATNA, July 9: They love to be referred to as the "social justice" heroes, but going by their birthday bashes they recently hosted, they can hardly be called so.
The trio ~ Mr Lalu Prasad, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, both Cabinet ministers holding key portfolios in the UPA government at the Centre, and Bihar chief minister Mr Nitish Kumar ~ seem to be engaged in a bewildering contest to outbid each other in matters of their “lifestyle”.
The Union chemical and fertiliser minister, Mr Paswan went a step ahead of his rival and Cabinet colleague Mr Lalu Prasad, when he celebrated his 61st birthday at a New York hotel on Sunday. A day earlier, he had inaugurated the conference of Dalit and Minority International Forum in New York. At the conference organised by American Federation of Muslim of Indian Origin, he was presented as the future Prime Minister of India, according to reports appearing in the local media.
"It's ironic how a man, who claims to be the leader of the dalit, is behaving today. He seeks votes in lieu of his sympathy for the dalit, yet celebrates his birthday in New York, miles away from his homeland," said the BSP legislature party leader in the Bihar Assembly Mr Ramchandra Singh Yadav.
He advised Mr Paswan to change himself before he launched scathing attacks on BSP chief Miss Mayawati over the dalit issue.
"It's shocking to know that he held a conference of the dalits and minority in New York. How many dalits and minority people participated in that seminar?" he asked. "It is surprising that Mr Paswan, who was born in a dalit family and follows dalit politics has lost his way and has attained a feudal character", Mr Yadav said and described him a "chameleon who has been changing his colour more often than not".
On 11 June, the railway minister Mr Prasad celebrated his 61st birthday in style in Patna by cutting a Garib Rath-shaped cake and accepting several baskets of mangoes and sweets from his followers. Last year, he had celebrated his birthday in New Delhi, much to the disappointment of local people. "Laluji says he does not know about his date of birth but he has never missed the day to celebrate (since he first celebrated it after becoming the chief minister of Bihar in 1990)," remarked a JD-U leader.
In contrast, the birthday of Mr Nitish Kumar, which was on 1 March, has so far gone totally unnoticed as he, does not like hungammas. However, the chief minister has been accused of wasting loads of money on huge billboards carrying his large-than-life photographs with brief mention of government schemes in all the cities. "Nitishji has launched publicity blitz through newspaper ads and hoardings at the expense of Central funds," the railway minister alleged.
Source: The Statesman, 10July, 2008