In villages of Lalu Prasad and Rabri, people doubt their family’s innocence
There is a growing indication that even Lalu Prasad’s diehard supporters, who are still found aplenty at Phulwaria and adjoining villages of Gopalganj district in Bihar, have started believing that the family may have been involved in wrongdoings.india Updated: Jul 26, 2017 19:28 IST
Phulwaria (Gopalganj) The land-for-hotels scam has not only affected Lalu Prasad in the political sphere but people in the native villages of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and his wife Rabri Devi have begun seeking an explanation from the embattled leader.
The CBI registered a corruption case on July 5 against Prasad, Rabri Devi, and his youngest son Tejashwi for alleged irregularities in awarding contracts to run two Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation hotels at Ranchi and Puri in 2006 when the RJD chief was the railway minister.
Some at Prasad’s Phulwaria village, 170 km north-west of state capital Patna, expressed disbelief over the extent of land and quantum of wealth allegedly owned by his sons and daughters, others felt there could be much more to the timing of the attack on the RJD chief than meets the eye.
The villagers acknowledged Prasad’s contribution to the development of Phulwaia—which has all kinds of facilities, including a helipad, railway station, big referral hospital, separate power substation, many banks, police station, and a block office—and the “valued status” it enjoys.
However, there is a growing indication that even Prasad’s diehard supporters, who are still found aplenty at Phulwaria and adjoining villages, have started believing that the family may have been involved in the wrongdoings.
“He has always projected himself as a leader of the ‘garib gurba’ (poor and downtrodden)’ and we believed him blindly. But now we wonder as to how could his sons and daughters acquire so much wealth, while our condition has remained unchanged,” said 90-year-old Mohammad Shahab Hussain of Mahuan village adjoining Phulwaria.
“Laluji must go to the people and clarify his stand on the charges levelled in the FIR registered by the CBI ... In fact, people of the entire area are confused as a lot is happening politically. If there is so much wealth in the name of his sons and daughters, it cannot remain under wraps anymore,” Hussain added.
The corruption charges on Tejashwi, who is also the deputy chief minister of the state, has also given rise to a feud in Bihar’s ruling Grand Alliance with coalition partner the Janata Dal (United) questioning the silence of Prasad and his son.
Following the recent CBI and I-T raids against Prasad and his family members for alleged corruption, there have been speculations that chief minister Nitish Kumar could even consider breaking ties with the RJD.
JD(U)’s spokesperson Neeraj Kumar told a regional TV news channel on Saturday that “silence is no solution” and asked Tejashwi to come clean on the corruption case filed by the CBI.
“In fact, silence generally conveys two things. Either, one has accepted his guilt or has nothing to explain to the public on the charges levelled against him,” Kumar said in a clear indication that the party hasn’t budged from its original demand that Tejashwi must explain the source of his wealth.
Ramsagar Singh of Maripur, another village adjoining Phulwaria, also questioned the way Tejashwi defended himself by saying he was a minor when the alleged “land-for-hotel deal” was struck and said it indicated something was wrong.
“It is not a matter of minor or major. It’s a question of disproportionate wealth in his name, which Tejashwi will have to explain to the investigating agency,” the 65-year-old added.
Satyendra Singh, 48, a trader at Line Bazaar, seemed to echo Singh’s opinion and said with the kind of charges levelled against RJD chief’s family members, the resignation of Tejashwi would be a natural corollary to save the alliance.
“Saving the (grand) alliance is more of a compulsion for Laluji and not chief minister Nitish Kumar,” he added.
Savitri Devi, 52, of Rabri Devi’s native village Salar Kela, not far from Phulwaria, said she was totally unaware of the kind of wealth Prasad and his family have amassed over the years. “They seem to be arabpatis (billionaires). We had heard of some people getting government jobs in lieu of land. Now, all the stories are proving to be true,” she added.
Mohammad Washir Alam, 50, a small trader in Phulwaria, said when the fodder scam happened, Lalu often clarified before his people that officials kept him in dark and wrongly got his signatures on documents.
“With fresh corruption charges against the RJD chief and his family, I have reasons to believe that he was involved in the fodder scam,” he added.
Munna Yadav, a 29-year-old unemployed man from Manjha, also said the allegations were too strong to be ignored. “If Tejashwi or Laluji have to clarify, it should be to the people and not to any political party,” he added.
Munna, however, questioned the timing of the raids on Prasad’s premises and the FIR against him and his family members.
“The action by CBI and other investigating agencies soon after BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi launched a tirade against Lalu and family smacks of conspiracy,” he added.
Laluji must go to people and clarify his stand on charges levelled by CBI ... people of the area are confused... If there is so much wealth in the name of his sons and daughters, it cannot remain under wraps anymore
Mohammad Shahab Hussain, 90,
Mahuan adjoining Phulwaria.