As the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on May 20 raided 16 locations, including the residence of Lalu Prasad in Patna and the home of her daughter Misa Bharti in New Delhi, it served as a reminder that the brush of the supremo Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) with the agency investigating corruption cases was far from over.
Lalu, who is convicted in five fodder scam cases, had last month secured bail in the fifth case relating to the questionable withdrawal of funds from the treasury of Doranda (Ranchi) while his party was in power at the time. from Undivided Bihar. He moved to Misa Bharti’s residence in Delhi for health reasons.
The CBI raids were carried out in Delhi, Patna and Bihar’s Gopalganj after the agency registered a case related to alleged improper appointments of some Bihar residents to railways in exchange for land transferred in the name of Lalu, members of his family and a “private company controlled by family members”.
Security personnel guard outside the residence of RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav as the CBI raids his premises in connection with a new corruption case, in Patna on May 20, 2022; (Photo PTI)
According to the CBI, the alleged beneficiaries of the railway jobs were first appointed to Group D posts as replacements; their positions were later regularized, allegedly in violation of the rules. The recruitments took place between 2004 and 2009 when Lalu was Minister of Railways in the UPA-1 government at the Center. Appointments were made without the positions being advertised.
The CBI had, in September 2021, registered a preliminary investigation into these allegations. Today, the agency registered a new case against 16 people – Lalu, his wife Rabri Devi, two daughters and 12 people who got jobs in the railway areas of Mumbai, Jabalpur, Kolkata, Jaipur and Hajipur. According to the CBI, approximately 105,292 sq. cash in most of the land transfer.
As expected, the CBI raids sparked political slander in Patna, with RJD leaders calling the agency a “parrot” of the BJP-led Union government. This is clearly an excerpt from the Supreme Court’s 2013 remark that the agency was a “caged parrot” that speaks “its master’s voice.”
However, top BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Modi described the CBI raids as a mandatory legal process and called Lalu and his family a “symbol of corruption in Bihar”. ” Operation mode [of Lalu Prasad as railway minister] was for you to give me land and in return I would give a Group D job in the railways,” he alleged.
The CBI raids, however, raised multiple questions, especially of “timing” since the action came 13 years after Lalu completed his term as Union Railway Minister. Some senior RJD leaders also said the raids were meant to create a roadblock for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (United) to even think about political realignment and go with the RJD. Nitish and Tejashwi Yadav, son of Lalu and leader of the opposition in Bihar, have recently shown signs of closeness. The two leaders even attended each other’s meeting last month. iftar parties amid signs of tensions within the ruling NDA in Bihar, sparked by statements by some BJP leaders who appeared to give Nitish’s chief ministry a limited time.
The raids can arguably make it difficult for Nitish to forge a new alliance with Tejashwi’s RJD. That Nitish is seen as a politician who fiercely protects his image makes such an alliance unlikely. After all, it was a similar CBI raid in July 2017 that saw him emerge from the mahagathbandhan with the RJD and Congress. “Nitish Kumar will never leave the impression that he would ally himself with someone on the wrong side of the law,” a senior JD(U) official said.
The BJP will certainly try to mount a campaign against Lalu and Tejashwi over the alleged railway jobs scandal. Two years away from Lok Sabha polls, part of the BJP leadership told INDIA TODAY that while the allegations don’t matter much in the ballot box battle, Lalu and his family members will still have another legal problem to solve. “Unlike the fodder scam, where the allegations against Lalu were indirect, in this case his family members would have been directly implicated. This will keep potential RJD allies away,” a BJP leader said.
However, despite ongoing legal issues, Lalu and Tejashwi remain a political force to be reckoned with in Bihar. When the fodder scam conviction rendered Lalu ineligible for election, Tejashwi valiantly led his party to win 75 Bihar assembly seats in 2020. He became Bihar’s main anti-BJP force as Lok approached Sabha of 2024. election. Tejashwi can take comfort in the fact that he was not charged in the latest CBI case – it is also a fact that the corruption charges are of little significance among his support base.
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