Patna: He rose to power in caste-riddled Bihar in the 1990s, became scam-tainted and lost his throne in the state, has often been mimicked for his style of speaking, but his return to the political forefront signifies the hold Lalu Prasad exercises over public consciousness, feel people who have seen him from close.
Arun Jee, currently principal at a noted private school in Punjab, and a junior of Lalu's during the RJD chief's Patna University days in 1970s, says, "When I saw the results on television, I felt happy, not for any particular party, but for Bihar."
The resounding victory of the grand alliance has also signified the return of this native as kingmaker on the Bihar arena after being pushed to political margins by recent state Assembly and Parliamentary elections. Several took to social media to claim though that it will lead to "return of jungle raj".
Arun says, "Throughout the election, the bogey of 'jungle raj' was raised and it is sad that even after the people of Bihar have given their mandate, the Lalu-bashing continues... Maybe, good, bad or ugly remarks, but people cannot ignore this man."
71-year-old Jyoti Kumar Sinha from Patna, a former RAW officer, was in Paris when he had heard the news of Lalu's ascension to the helm of the state in 1990, and greeted it with great enthusiasm. But over time, he has grown disenchanted with the leader.
"It was something unbelievable. And, his (Lalu's) rise to power generated a positive excitement across the country. It was a magic of democracy and beginning of a road to social empowerment. And, Lalu's first term as chief minister was good," he told PTI.
While Sinha agrees that Lalu did bring a "sense of empowerment", he alleged that "he squandered a great opportunity to become a statesman, and instead became like any other run-of-the-mill politician".
One of the children of JP's 'Total Revolution', Lalu's political journey began in the Jayaprakash Narayan-led student movement that ultimately engulfed the entire nation, leading to the fall of the Indira Gandhi government.
The former chief minister of Bihar has often been pilloried by the press for his unique style of speaking, with many TV show hosts mimicking his diction.
"Contrary to what many think or assume, in and outside of Bihar, I don't think Lalu's mannerism in any way degrades Bihar's image," said Arun.
"Lalu used his trademark rustic style of speaking back in his student politics days too, which eventually became his USP.
"He spoke like that because he was speaking to his constituency, the deprived and unpolished and not-refined class -- the deprived community which looked up to him as their leader," he added.