When you need a rail minister to hug

Rail minister's doll a hit

From correspondents in Patna, India

June 07, 2005

From: Agence France-Presse

INDIAN Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav is beaming after a doll in his likeness has been snapped up from toy stores in the state of Bihar where he will soon contest elections.

The plump doll, called Lalooji, sports a mop of white hair and is clothed in the politician's trademark white kurta pajamas.

The doll, a dead ringer for the man dubbed the "clown prince" of Indian politics, is manufactured by a Mumbai-based company and went on sale in Bihar recently.

"See how popular I am. Everyone is playing with me in all homes," Mr Prasad said on Sunday.

The 57-year-old head of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the second biggest party in the ruling Congress-led national coalition, is known for his earthy presence and his always handy spitoon for the betel nut he chomps on.

His party lost power in February state assembly elections and Bihar was put under federal rule for several months as no rival group of parties could form a government.

The state now faces new elections in October and November with Mr Prasad already stumping for votes. Party workers have reportedly advised him to buy the doll in bulk ahead of the election.

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