Many accusations have been made about him citing him as an encourager of criminality and 'Gunda Raj' in Bihar. He is known as a crowdpuller, shrewd and colourful politician but has been criticized for promoting and encouraging caste-based politics and there are several corruption cases against him. On 3 October 2013, he was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment and ₹25 lakh (US$39,000) fine for his role in the Fodder Scam by CBI court.
Yadav was born in Phulwaria, Bihar. His father's name is Kundan Rai and mother's name Marachhiya Devi. He is the 2nd of his parent's six sons. He attended a local middle school before moving to Patna with his elder brother. He studied Bachelor of Laws and a Master in Political Science from B. N. College, Patna University. After graduation, he got a job as clerk in Bihar Veterinary College, Patna where his elder brother also worked as a peon. He turned down Patna University's Honorary Doctorate in 2004.
Yadav entered in student politics as General Secretary of the Patna University Students' Union (PUSU) in 1970 and became its president in 1973. In 1974, he joined Bihar Movement, a student movement led by Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) against rising prices, corruption and unemployment. PUSU formed Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti to spearhead the agitation with Lalu Prasad Yadav as its president. During the movement Yadav came close to Janta party stalwarts and was nominated as Janata Party candidate in the 1977 Lok Sabha election from Chapra by the then President of Bihar State Janata Party and veteran Bihar leader Satyendra Narayan Sinha, who campaigned for him. Janata Party formed the first non-Congress government in the history of the Republic of India and at the age of 29, Yadav became one of the youngest members of the Indian Parliament at that time. Due to continuous in-fighting and ideological differences Janata Party government fell and parliament was dissolved leading to a re-election in 1980. He was inspired by the ideology and practices of Jai Prakash Narayan and one of the father of socialist movement in India, Raj Narain. He parted ways with Morarji Desai and joined Janata Party-S led by Lokbandhu Raj Narain who was Janata Party-S president and later became Chairman. Yadav lost the re-election in 1980. However he successfully contested Bihar state election in 1980 and became a member of Bihar Legislative Assembly. During the period, Yadav rose in hierarchy and was considered as one of the second-rung leaders. He was re-elected for Bihar assembly in 1985. After the death of ex-Chief Minister Karpuri Thakur, Yadav became the leader of opposition Bihar assembly in 1989. Same year, he was also elected for Lok Sabha under V. P. Singh government.
By 1990, Yadav who represented single largest castes of Yadav with 11.7% of the state population, established himself as leader of lower castes. Muslims in Bihar on the other hand had traditionally served as a Congress (I) vote bank, but after the 1989 Bhagalpur violence, they shifted their loyalty to Yadav. In a span of 10 years, Yadav became a formidable force in Bihar State politics, known for his popularity among the Muslim and Yadav voters.
In 1990, Janta Dal came to power in Bihar. PM V. P. Singh wanted former Chief Minister Ram Sundar Das to lead the government. and Chandra Shekhar backed Raghunath Jha. To break deadlock deputy PM Devi Lal nominated Yadav as CM candidate. Yadav was victorious in an internal poll of Janta Party MLS's and became the Chief Minister. On 23 September 1990, Yadav arrested L K Advani at Samastipur during later's Ram Rath Yatra to Ayodhya and presented himself as a secular leader. The World Bank lauded his party for its work in the 1990s on the economic front. In 1993, Yadav adopted a pro-English policy and pushed for the re-introduction of English as a language in school curriculum, contrary to the angrezi hatao (banish English) policy of then Uttar Pradesh CM Mulayam Singh Yadav, another Yadav and caste based politician. Policy of opposition to English was considered an anti-elite policy since both the Yadav leaders represented the same social constituents The Backward castes, Dalits and minority communities. With the help of Yadav-Muslim votes, Lalu continued to be Bihar CM. In the Fodder Scam, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) issued an arrest warrant for Yadav, and he had to resign from CM's post. Subsequently, he installed his wife Rabri Devi as Bihar CM.
Due to allegation related to Fodder Scam, a leadership revolt surfaced in Janata Dal. Yadav broke away from Janata Dal and formed a new political party Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) on 5 July 1997. According to Limca Book of Records, in 2004 he was the longest serving president of an Indian political party. Except for brief President rule and 8 days term of Nitish Kumar, RJD remained in power in Bihar till 2005. In November 2005 state elections RJD won 54 seats putting less than both Janata Dal United (JDU) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Nitish Kumar led coalition, consisting of JD(U) and BJP, came to power. In the 2010 elections, the RJD tally was reduced to just 22 seats whereas the ruling alliance claimed a record 206 out of the 243 Assembly seats.
Yadav contested 1998 general election from Madhepura and became member of 12th Lok Sabha. However, in 1999 general election, he lost to Sharad Yadav even though Sharad Yadav had sat on a hunger strike before the result claiming unfair election and asked for re-poll. In 2000, he again became member of Bihar assembly. RJD formed the government with Rabri Devi as the CM. In 2002, Yadav was elected in Rajya Sabha. He remained member of RS till 2004.
In 2004, Yadav contested general election from Chapra and Madhepura against Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Sharad Yadav respectively and won from both the seats. In total, RJD won 21 seats and it allied with Indian National Congress becoming 2nd largest member of UPA I after Congress. Yadav became the railway minister in the 2004 UPA Government. Later, he gave up the Madhepura seat.
As railway minister, Yadav left passenger fares untouched and focused on other sources of revenue for the Railways. He banned plastic cups from being used to serve tea at railway stations and replaced those with kulhars (earthen cups), in order to generate more employment in rural areas. Later, he also said that he had plans to introduce buttermilk and khādī. In June 2004, he announced that he would get on the railway himself to inspect its problems and went on to board the Patna railway station at midnight. He introduced cushion seats in all unreserved compartments.
When he took over, the Indian Railways was a loss-making organization. In the four years under his leadership, it showed a cumulative total profit of Rs.250 billion (US $5.2 billion). The turnaround of railways from a loss-making to a profit venture was actually more of a cosmetic exercise. According to CAG, it was the new practice of issuing a "statement of cash and investible surplus" that helped Lalu project a rosy picture. In 2008, the profits shown were ₹25,000 crore (US$3.9 billion). Schools of management became interested in Yadav's leadership in managing the turnaround (with more or less the same IAS officers and the same workforce who worked under the previous ministers). The alleged turnaround was introduced as a case study by the prestigious Indian Institute of Management. Yadav also received invitations from eight Ivy League schools for lectures, and addressed over a hundred students from Harvard, Wharton and others in Hindi.
In 2009, Yadav's successor Mamata Banerjee and the opposition parties alleged that the so-called turnaround of the Railways during his tenure was merely a result of presenting financial statements differently. In 2011, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) endorsed this view. CAG found that the "surplus" shown on the financial statements during Yadav's tenure covered "cash and investible surplus", which were not included in the "net surplus" figures released by the Railways in the earlier years. The "cash surplus" included the money available for paying dividend, contribution to the Depreciation Reserve Fund used for renewal or replacement of existing assets, and other funds for investment. The "investible surplus" included the money allocated for capital expenditure. The report concluded that the performance of the Railways actually declined marginally during the last few years of Lalu's tenure. Earlier in August 2008, CNN-IBN had also alleged that Yadav had misused his position as the Union Railway Minister to help his relatives acquire land.
In 2009 general election RJD won 4 seats and provided outside support to Manmohan Singh government. In May 2012, Lalu Prasad Yadav envisaged Hamid Ansari, currently the Vice-President, as a presidential candidate. In May 2013, Lalu Yadav tried to rejuvenate the party and fuel the party workers in his Parivartan Rally. After the conviction in Fodder Scam on 3 October 2013, Yadav lost his membership of Lok Sabha.
In 2014 general election, Lalu Yadav's RJD again won 4 seats. Lalu Yadav has been working on a merger of six parties to form a Janata Parivar.
In the Bihar Legislative Assembly election, 2015, Lalu Yadav's RJD become the largest party with a total of 81 seats. He along with his partner Nitish Kumar of JD(U) have the absolute majority to form a government in Bihar. This has been cited as a major comeback for the RJD and for Lalu Yadav on the political stage of Bihar after a gap of 10 years.
Yadav has been charged in several corruption cases,
In 1996, Yadav was accused in the "Fodder Scam" in which about Rs.4.50 billion (US $111.85 million) were siphoned off from the animal husbandry department, albeit the probe itself was ordered by him. Several reports of alleged embezzlement of money withdrawn from the animal husbandry department were tabled from 1990–95. In January 1996, a raid conducted on Chaibasa treasury indicated the siphoning off of funds by non-existent companies. Yadav then ordered an inquiry to probe the alleged irregularities. However, after a public interest litigation, the Bihar High Court in March 1996 ordered the case to be handed over to the CBI. In June 1997, CBI filed the charge sheet in the case and made Yadav an accused. The fodder scam forced Yadav to resign from the office of Chief Minister and he appointed his wife, Rabri Devi, his successor as the state's Chief Minister. In 2001, Supreme Court transferred the scam cases to newly formed Jharkhand and trial began in a special court in Ranchi in 2002. In August 2013, Yadav tried to get the trial court judge transferred, but his plea was rejected by Supreme Court of India. Yadav has been an accused in many of the 53-odd cases filed. He has been remanded to custody on multiple occasions because of the number of cases. Over 64 people were convicted in the case. Yadav was first sent to "Judicial remand" (Bihar Military Police guest house, Patna) on 30 July 1997, for 134 days. On 28 October 1998, he was again sent to the same guest house for 73 days. When the Supreme Court of India took exception to his guest house stay, he had also moved to the Beur jail in Patna. On 26 November 2001, Yadav was again remanded, in a case related to the fodder scam. Yadav accused the NDA of creating a conspiracy against him. On 1 October 2004, the Supreme Court of India served a notice to Yadav and his wife, Rabri Devi, on the fodder scam. This was in response to a petition which alleged that they have been interfering with the investigation.
Lalu Prasad Yadav, along with 44 other accused, was convicted on 30 September 2013, by Central Bureau of Investigation court at Ranchi, after being found guilty in fraudulent withdrawal of Rs.37 crores from Chaibasa treasury. Several other politicians, IAS officers were also convicted in the case. Immediately after the verdict was pronounced, Laloo Prasad Yadav was arrested and taken to Birsa Munda Central Jail, located at Ranchi. Consequent upon his conviction, Mr. Yadav stands disqualified as MP and he will not be eligible to contest public election for next six years. He has been given a jail sentence of five years and a fine of 25 lakh rupees.
He was released on bail from Birsa Munda Central Jail, after he completed the bail formalities in a Special CBI court, two-and-a-half months after he was convicted in a fodder scam case.
In 1998, a disproportionate assets case was registered against Yadav and Rabri Devi. In April 2000, both were made co-accused in the charge-sheet and surrendered. While Rabri Devi got bail due to being CM of Bihar, Yadav was remanded for 11 days and sent to the Beur Jail. Due to the proceedings in the fodder scam, Yadav was remanded for a day in Beur jail on 28 November 2000. CBI failed to prove them guilty and they were acquitted by a CBI court in 2006. Bihar government wanted to appeal against the acquittal, but Supreme court in 2010 ruled that state government can not challenge such rulings.
On 5 August 2004, Yadav claimed that L. K. Advani, a senior BJP leader and the Leader of the Opposition was an accused in a conspiracy to kill Muhammad Ali Jinnah and described him as an 'international absconder'.
On 28 September 2004, Yadav alleged Venkaiah Naidu, the then Union Rural Minister, of having sold 55,000 tonnes of wheat in the group of drought relief distribution in Andhra Pradesh. "A CBI probe will be initiated to find the truth," he said.
While campaigning for Bihar elections in 2005, both Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan used a Muslim cleric in the traditional Islamic dress to woo Muslim voters. The cleric would accompany them in their helicopter to various election meetings, share the stage with them and make speeches that attacked the United States for its alleged anti-Muslim activities. Pramod Mahajan, senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, had criticized both leaders for this by comparing the cleric with Osama bin Laden and blaming that they were "glorifying the name of a man who is recognized as the most wanted terrorist in the world."
Lalu Prasad Yadav is one of the first noted politicians to lose parliamentary seat on being arrested in fodder scam as per Supreme Court decision banning convicted legislators to hold their posts. Despite several ongoing corruption cases against him, he and his wife Rabdi Devi ruled Bihar state for 15 years, a period during which every economic and social rankings of the state went to lowest level when compared to other states of India. During his tenure as Chief Minister, Bihar's law and order was at lowest, kidnapping was on rise and private armies mushroomed.
The I-T department has issued fresh summons for June 12 to MP Misa Bharti, over benami land deals worth Rs. 10 billion and on tax evasion charges. She was supposed to appear on June 6, 2017, but didn't turn up. Her husband Shailesh Kumar is supposed to appear on 7 June 2017.1977: Elected to the 6th Lok Sabha at the age of 29.
1980–1989: Member of the Bihar Legislative Assembly (two terms).
1989: Becomes the leader of Opposition, Bihar Legislative Assembly, Chairman, Pustakalaya Committee, Convenor, Committee on Public Undertakings. Re-elected to the 9th Lok Sabha (2nd term).
1990–1995: Member of the Bihar Legislative Council.
1990–1997: Chief Minister of Bihar
1995–1998: Member of the Bihar Legislative Assembly.
1996: Lalu's name springs up in a major scam.
1997: parts with the Janata Dal and forms the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
1998: Re-elected to 12th Lok Sabha (3rd term).
1998–1999: Member, General Purposes Committee, Committee on Home Affairs and its Sub Committee on Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, Consultative Committee, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
2004: Re-elected to the 14th Lok Sabha (4th term). Appointed Cabinet Minister in the Ministry of Railways. In 2004, he was elected to the Lok Sabha with his party emerging as a key member of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance).
2009: Re-elected to the 15th Lok Sabha (5th term).
Yadav married Rabri Devi on 1 June 1973, in a traditional match arranged by their parents. Yadav has fathered nine children, two sons and seven daughters:
- Tej Pratap Yadav, elder son, currently Health minister in the Bihar state government
- Tejashwi Yadav, younger son, ex-cricketer, ex deputy chief minister of Bihar
- Misa Bharti Devi, eldest daughter, married in 1999 to Shailesh Kumar, a software engineer
- Rohini Devi, second daughter, married in May 2002 to Rao Samaresh Singh, a US-based computer engineer, son of Rao Ranvijay Singh of Arwal-Daudnagar
- Chanda Singh, third daughter, married to Vikram Singh, and pilot with Indian Airlines, in 2006
- Ragini Yadav, fourth daughter, married to Rahul Yadav, son of Jitendra Yadav, SP MLA from Ghaziabad, now a Congress party member
- Hema Yadav, fifth daughter, married to Vineet Yadav, scion of a political family
- Dhannu (aka Anushka Rao), sixth daughter, married to Chiranjeev Rao, son of Rao Ajay Singh Yadav of the INC, sometime power minister in the Haryana government
- Rajlaxmi Singh, youngest daughter, married to Tej Pratap Singh Yadav, MP from Mainpuri and grand-nephew of Mulayam Singh Yadav
Sankarshan Thakur is author of a book based on his life titled The Making of Laloo Yadav, The Unmaking of Bihar; the book was later updated and reprinted by PicadorIndia under the title "Subaltern Sahib: Bihar and the Making of Laloo Yadav".
Yadav has a sizable fan following in Bollywood. Actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, who is a political opponent of Yadav, once said, "Had Yadav not been a politician he could have been an actor". Director Mahesh Bhatt has also gone to the extent of saying that he deserves to become Prime Minister of India. He is also mimicked by various comedians like Shekhar Suman and Johnny Lever. A Bollywood film titled Padmashree Laloo Prasad Yadav was released in 2004. Though his name appeared in the title, the movie was not about him, but had characters named Padmashreee, Laloo, Prasad and Yadav, however the politician made a guest appearance in it. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has produced a four-hour-long documentary India Rising in 2007 featuring Indians from various fields and Yadav, the only politician in the documentary, discusses the turnaround of Indian Railways.