About Kumkum Chadha

Kumkum Chadha has written about all kinds of politicians: good, bad and the uncouth. At a time when there were not many women reporters in national dailies, it was tough for men to take women reporters seriously. Politicians rarely did. Kumkum joined Hindustan Times in 1976 and has written extensively on politics, crime and gender.

Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav’s grandfather was taken around the village on an elephant after he cleared his Class 8 examination. It was, in those days, an achievement.

Politically inclined, Jai Prakash’s grandfather Shukrdas Yadav was the village chief. He fought against untouchability and took up the
cause of his community which was not allowed to wear the sacred thread or mix with the upper castes till then. Jai Prakash’s early memories are of being a battered lot.

With time things have changed but not as much he would like them to.

A product of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan’s total revolution movement, Yadav is a four-term MLA, a state minister and later part of the Union cabinet from where he had to resign after non-bailable arrest warrants were issued against him for allegedly releasing his brother illegally from police custody.

Mention that and he speaks about how he has been to prison several times during the JP movement along with Lalu Prasad Yadav, now the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief.

Even though Jai Prakash’s parents were active politicians, he prefers to talk about his grandfather more. One reason being that he was brought up by him and the other being that his grandfather achieved much more that his parents.

His grandfather was revered because he had dedicated his life for his community pledging to free it from the tyranny of the upper castes. His parents, even though they carried forward what Shukrdas had started, were more political than reformers. That is why when Jai Prakash says that politics is in his blood, it fits in.

Like his grandfather, he is inclined towards the Congress even though he belongs to the RJD. Unlike him, he did not get even a car ride after he completed his law degree or researched on Kabir, the great saint and mystic poet. “Woh zamana aur tha (It was a different era),” he told me.

It certainly was. Otherwise, there could not be a situation when a jailed husband could engineer his wife’s elevation as the chief minister: read Lalu and Rabri Devi respectively. The decision, Jai Prakash, feels does not need any justification. His take: Rabri is Lalu’s natural heir and a safe bet.

Jai Prakash, I marked, has the capacity to steer an uncomfortable conversation to his advantage. He can jump from his controversial resignation to his family’s contribution to the society or from Lalu-Rabri Devi’s misrule to how he has the proverbial nine lives. Destiny, he is convinced, has always stepped in to give him an extended lease of life: once when he nearly drowned as the water current swept him away and second when he travelled on a train’s footboard for over an hour. “Twice I hit a boulder but destiny saved me.” He had boarded a speeding train presuming that he would climb in through an open door but he kept hanging and no one would let him in. “I prayed for my life, like never before,” Jai Prakash said swearing never to go near water or jump on a moving train.

The first time he went abroad, he felt he had arrived. It was not a dream come true given that his dreamsthen were quite ordinary and foreign jaunts were not a part. But, once he actually boarded an aircraft it was “swarg par pav rakhne jaisa” or like setting foot on heaven to him.

More than the excitement of flying, and thankfully he had no fear, it was the joy of seeing clouds from close quarters. “Woh badal jinme bachpan mein pariyan rahti thi (the clouds that were home to fairies when I was a kid).”

Jai Prakash does not look the fairy-type. He is out and out a politician who would perhaps bend rules keeping with the RJD style of politics. There is, as in the case with most from his clan, a struggle to be accepted as equals in a society that discriminates. There was, therefore, no place for fairy tales or happy dreams. Life was all about earning the next meal. For Jai Prakash it may not have been so bad but even as a child he was familiar with the harsh realities of life.

And the third mishap was when he was air bound and destiny favoured him once again. The pilot of the plane had lost control and was forced to crash land. “It was a close shave, but I had faith and got yet another lease of life,” he told me.

At 61, he still has a long way to go.
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