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From the moment he arrived at the relief camp in Loi at about 2.25 pm, till he left about 40 minutes later, a frail Lalu Prasad, just out of hospital and recently out of jail, and politically reduced to a shadow of himself in Bihar, was the man in charge, even a raja holding court. On a raised platform outside the house of a local villager, overlooking the sprawl of unbearably fragile-looking tents, he addressed the crowd that gathered to hear him with a peremptory tone and a single, simple message: everything will be ok, he was here, he was looking into the matter.
He asked questions of a former pradhan, who stood next to him, and of the crowd. What do the people need? So there are enough blankets here? You don't want to go back to your own village? You want a home where there is a guarantee of security?
He announced he would talk to the UP Chief Minister, and took a mobile phone and called Akhilesh Yadav. "Make a team, a committee. Send it to Loi, people need help," Lalu could be heard saying.
Later, he told The Indian Express that he had advised Akhilesh that "You should have come here, or sent someone, people are in a bad condition here. It is your duty, your priority". And what did Akhilesh say in response? "He told me that I can make assurances and he would ensure they are implemented," said Lalu.
"I know what happened here," said the RJD chief, turning back to his audience.
"And I know too what will happen in the future. I understand the design." Things are bad, not just at Loi, but everywhere, he said. "But we will not let them succeed. Don't get scared, stay united, don't bow or bend before anyone. Bhagane waale ko hum bhagaa chuke hain, I have sent many tyrants packing. No one can push you out from here. I just spoke to Akhilesh. Now, I'm here."