Already in the firing line of the Opposition BJP which has been “exposing” alleged illegal deals by his ally RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his sons, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday had more trouble coming after the newly-launched Republic news channel released audio tapes wherein Lalu is heard being asked by jailed don and former MP Mohammad Shahabuddin to take action against an SP for firing in Siwan. Subsequently, Lalu is heard asking his aide to connect to the Siwan SP.
The tapes — based on a 13-month-old telephonic conversation — came on a day another channel CNN News 18 showed how Bihar Ministers were renting out their bungalows for private functions including marriages and a day after the BJP leveled fresh allegations of illegal allotment of a petrol pump to Lalu’s son during UPA II Government in 2011.
The BJP State leadership in Patna demanded immediate cancellation of Lalu’s bail even as Union Law Minister and senior party leader Ravishankar Prasad in New Delhi asked the Chief Minister to initiate criminal proceedings against his alliance partner for “assisting a criminal” against whom 45 criminal cases were registered.
“A convicted criminal has influence in running the administration not only in Siwan but adjoining areas, he is browbeating officials and Lalu is assisting him.
We condemn it. Will Nitish initiate criminal proceeding against Lalu,” asked Prasad adding, “It is a text book case of constitutional impropriety”.
Prasad also took a dig at what he called “secular brigade” looking for an alternative political formulation in the country to tell whether they would “compromise with this kind of crime”. He threw the question to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechuri and wondered why they were “keeping silence” on the issue. He said Shahabuddin, on trial in 30 of 45 criminal cases, is accused of killing Left leaders too.
The tapes created ripples in the political circles in Patna but no leader of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance reacted to this development.
Bihar BJP’s legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi demanded that the State Government should move the Supreme Court to get Lalu’s bail cancelled.
The State BJP also demanded that two Ministers, Shivchandra Ram and Abdul Gafoor, in the Bihar Government should be sacked from the Cabinet and FIRs lodged against them for commercial use of their ministerial bungalows. A BJP delegation headed by Modi met Governor Ram Nath Kovind and demanded action against the two Ministers and a sitting JD(U) MLA for commercial utilisation of Government bungalows.
Lalu, convicted in one of the cases related to fodder scam, was granted bail by the designated CBI court in Ranchi in late 2013. He was also debarred from contesting election or holding any constitutional post. But being the chief of the RJD (a major partner in the Nitish Kumar-led- grand alliance in Bihar) and two of his sons holding Cabinet posts, Lalu enjoys prime clout in the State administration.
Modi, a former Deputy Chief Minister in the erstwhile BJP-JD(U) alliance in Bihar, also said the State Government should register criminal case against Lalu for speaking to criminals in jail and giving them protection.
“We have sought time from the Governor and will urge him to call the DGP and ask him to file case against Lalu for hobnobbing with criminals behind bars,” he said and challenged Nitish to jettison RJD from the grand alliance.
“Lalu is on bail which he was granted on certain conditions. He is influencing the administration and forcing the officials to do what the lawbreakers want to be done. The Government should approach the apex court and get his bail cancelled similarly as the Government, under pressure, moved the SC against bail to Shahabuddin,” said the BJP State leader.
He further alleged that other jailed RJD men like MLA Rajballabh Yadav, accused in rape of a minor girl, and Bindi Yadav, whose son Rocky Yadav murdered a teenager in Gaya for not giving side to his Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), were also in regular touch from jail with Lalu.
The “expos é” came as a big shot in the arms of BJP and Modi who has been carrying out a sustained campaign against Lalu and his family for amassing huge assets running into several thousand crore rupees. The allegations were being countered by the RJD leaders including Lalu himself and his spokesman Manoj Jha but on Saturday nobody from the RJD came out to either clarify the taped conversation or defend Lalu. The JD(U) leadership prohibited its spokesmen from speaking to the media. The Congress is also maintaining a studied silence.
Meanwhile, four Union Ministers from Bihar — Prasad, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Ram Kripal Singh and Giriraj Kishore — went into a huddle to discuss the situation here following the expos é. BJP president Amit Shah, away in Tripura, was kept abreast of the developments in Bihar.
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