Lalu’s Holi celebration is legendary and is still remembered in the corridors of power.
The coronavirus outbreak has dampened the festival of colours in the BJP circles. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah, to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president J P Nadda, a host of party leaders have decided to skip the ‘Holi Milan’ celebrations.
It is unusual as the festival of colours has for long been used by leaders in the north as a means of political outreach. From former prime minister, late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi; from former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav – politicians across the spectrum have immersed themselves in Holi celebrations.
Vajpayee was among the first to add a political tinge to Holi. In 2004, as his government approached the parliamentary elections, Vajpayee exuded confidence that the people would vote his government back to power during the festivities. “There is a need that everyone plays Holi forgetting differences and making a new beginning,” Vajpayee had said.
The other legendary Holi celebration still remembered in the corridors of power is the one held by Lalu Yadav. The RJD chief’s raucous “kurta-phaad” Holi celebrations between 1997 and 2000 were tinged with political bonhomie. Holi, even Opposition leaders would come to attend the celebrations.
Holi, however, became a low-key affair in 2017 for the Lalu household, with the family opting out of celebrations in 2018 and 2019. The family cited Lalu’s conviction in 2018 and the CRPF convoy attack in Pulwama in 2019 to not indulge in festivities.
Images of Sonia and former party chief Rahul Gandhi, along with other senior Congress leaders like late Sheila Dikshit, celebrating Holi at the AICC headquarters, yet again show that even the Congress has often used the festival for outreach. A key example is former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh who is known to hold celebrations on the day.
For Chouhan, Holi has had many colours. From distributing sweets to playing the ‘dhol’, the former MP chief minister too has exulted in the festival.
Even West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has embraced the festival in her own way, though not with colours. She attended the Holi celebrations hosted by the Marwari community in Kolkata last year.