Ladies' man Lalu in poser spot

Lalu Prasad is a defender of womanhood. Of a certain kind. Speaking at a city hotel on Friday, Lalu listed a series of calendar-perfect ideals with his trademark eloquence: women are devi swarup, narishakti, ma, Saraswati, directly descended on this part of earth from the ancient samskriti that was never demeaning to women.

But after their descent they are much sullied, as is apparent in the rising incidence of violence against women in the country, the Delhi rape being one of them. Rapists should be hanged. Strict law is to be framed.

But he will prefer to listen to Hindi.

Enlisted by Ficci Ladies Organization to speak on "Women's empowerment? Let's talk security first", Lalu had risen fully to the occasion in his white pyjama, white kurta and stand-up white hair, paying one tribute after another to Indian women, while facing an audience made up largely of them. Style is the man. He made them laugh.

Then he was swamped with questions from them. The eternal had to confront the contemporary. If all Indian women were divine inside, some of them wore jeans on the outside, sometimes designer, and could hit the former Bihar chief minister questions sharp enough to silence him for a few seconds. Some of them didn't speak Hindi that well either.

A young woman stood up and asked Lalu that if people like her, the country's young, read in the newspapers every day about how corrupt politicians were, how could her generation look up to politicians? She had begun in Hindi, but after a while, broke into impassioned English, and when she finished, there was loud applause for her.

Lalu, who had previously summoned reporters right up to the stage and made them speak in Hindi, was silent for a few seconds and agreed. He also looked a bit stumped when another stylish young woman asked him about his views on reservation for women.

Activist Ruchira Gupta, who works on prevention of trafficking of women, asked him about an incident in Forbesgunge in Bihar's Araria district when the police had picked up a girl associated with her organisation and not let her out for a day. When activists protested, Lalu had hailed the offending police officer, S.P. Lande, as Che Guevara, Gupta said.

Lalu said he didn't know; he asked her to submit a report in detail on the incident.

Gupta also pointed out that many girls from Bengal are forced to dance at weddings in Bihar. Their situation makes them vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

He will stop inviting "item girls" to his functions and ask other leaders to do the same.

When a gentleman pinned him down asking how his claims of women being goddesses, Durga or Saraswati, are compatible with the history-sheeters in his party, many of them with records of crime against women, and how can a party like his work effectively for any change for women, Lalu just said: "Kanoon banega hi."

Possibly it is enough to keep in mind that women are heavenly creatures.

There is something else to remember. That Lalu is from a village and he sold milk once. That the purity of milk and food is important.

Earlier he had said that in his house no masala powder is bought: dhaniya, jeera, golmarich and garam masala are ground at home. Modern habits are unhygienic. The food we buy from open streets; our shoes we buy from showrooms.

The Third Front may be an impossibility in Indian politics, but the pastoral idyll endures as the antidote to all corruption and crime.

Did anyone mention any charges against him?