Railway Minister Lalu Yadav has stirred up yet another controversy by claiming that JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav and PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed , who were ministers in the VP Singh Government, had urged him not to arrest BJP leader LK Advani in Bihar during his 'rath yatra' to Ayodhya in 1990.
The charge has attracted furious denials from Sharad Yadav and his other detractors in Bihar politics who have hit back alleging that Lalu, then state chief minister, had actually developed cold feet at the proposal of detaining Advani, which was mooted by them at the Centre, as he feared a violent backlash and a breakdown in the law and order situation.
They claimed that Lalu reluctantly agreed to carry out the tricky task only after being pressurised by them and the then prime minister VP Singh.
"... Some people, now they are claiming themselves to be secular, and two gentlemen ... I will not mention their names... Those were ministers here ... They ring me why your are going to arrest Advani, what you have to do... Allow him to go to Uttar Pradesh," Lalu told Vir Sanghvi on NDTV's One-on-One show. He subsequently identified the two ministers as Sharad Yadav and Sayeed.
"Because they were in power and aadmi power ke liye nahi chahta ki jhanjhat ho" (to stay on in power, one does not want any complications to happen), he stated.
The Railway minister also denied VP Singh's claim in his memoirs that he had ordered him to arrest Advani in early morning hours to avoid trouble. This was not true, he maintained.
Reacting to Lalu's allegations, an angry Sharad Yadav, however, asserted that several of his then Janata Dal colleagues were witness to the fact that the plan to arrest Advani was first mooted by him at his bungalow in Delhi and then discussed with others as well as Singh.
"He is a liar. He is levelling these charges against me now as a ploy to alienate the Muslim voters in Bihar and elsewhere from the JD(U). He is upset at losing his grip on that vote bank as they are drifting towards us," he said.
Bihar JD(U) President Rajiv Ranjan Singh 'Lallan' and vice president of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) Ranjan Yadav too backed Sharad's claim saying that others like Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari were all witnesses to this fact as they had supported it.
In the NDTV interview, Lalu also revealed that he nurses the ambition of becoming India's prime minister in the future and while he is reluctant to hazard a guess as to how long that would take, he is optimistic that an opportunity would arise for him some day to get the top job.
"Pukka banna hai ... Bina jhagra jhanjhat se banna ha lekin banna hai... Apna kaam kariye ... the basic judge is people, our country people" (I certainly want to become the Prime Minister, but without any quarrel or complications), he said. He was responding to a query whether he could foresee the possibility of his becoming the country's prime minister some day.
"Kaun jaanta hai kab kaun kya ban jayega ... Hum sab sochte rehte hain, kaam karte raho, mauka milega to ho jayega" (who knows when somebody may become something ... we keep thinking, one must keep working, it will happen when an opportunity arrives).
Email Hemendra Singh Bartwal: hsbartwal @hindustantimes.com