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Lalu Prasad questioned for over 7 hours by CBI in IRCTC hotel scam

Lalu Prasad is being investigated over the awarding of maintenance of two railway hotels to Sujata Hotel in exchange for land during his tenure as Union minister.

india Updated: Oct 05, 2017 22:57 IST
Rajesh Ahuja and Srinand Jha
Rajesh Ahuja and Srinand Jha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lalu Prasad,CBI,IRCTC scam
RJD leader and former railway minister Lalu Prasad, accompanied by his daughter Misa, arrives at the CBI headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday for questioning.(PTI Photo)

The CBI questioned Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad for more than seven hours on Thursday over alleged irregularities in contracts awarded to a private firm during his tenure as railway minister nearly a decade ago.

Upon emerging from the CBI headquarters at New Delhi late in the evening, the RJD chief dubbed the ongoing investigation against his family as “political vendetta” by the BJP-ruled Centre. “I turned the loss-making Railways around with a record Rs 7,000-crore profit. It became a case study for Harvard. But now I am being accused of a scam. This is a political conspiracy against me and my family,” he said.

Prasad admitted that the CBI officials behaved cordially with him. “They are just doing what the government has told them to do,” he said. “But I will uproot communalism and fascism even if the BJP hangs me.”

The case registered by the CBI named Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi, son Tejashwi and Sarla Gupta – the wife of former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta – as the accused in the case.

Prasad refrained from speaking to the media while entering the CBI headquarters around 11 am. He was accompanied by his daughter, Rajya Sabha MP Misa Bharti, who was asked to wait in the lobby.

The RJD chief had earlier missed three summons by the CBI due to prior engagements. The CBI has also called his son, Tejashwi Yadav, in connection with the same case on Friday.

According to the CBI FIR, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation — a subsidiary of the Indian Railways — awarded the maintenance contract for two of its hotels in Ranchi and Puri to Sujata Hotels (a company owned by Vinay and Vijay Kochhar) in return for a prime three-acre plot in Patna through a benami company. This happened during Prasad’s tenure as the railway minister between 2004 and 2009.

Opposition parties have termed the investigation against Prasad and his family as “selective targeting” of political leaders opposed to the ruling dispensation. “The BJP government is targeting Opposition leaders in the spirit of vengeance. Such an approach can spell doom for democracy in this country,” said Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary.

Communist Party of India leader D Raja said that while he has no objection to investigation agencies doing their job, they should not be used to settle political scores. “Nobody hears about scams in BJP-ruled states. What happened to the Vyapam scam? Or the diversion of funds meant for the PDS system in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand? Why has the government not issued a white paper on the Panama papers?” he questioned.

The Sharad Yadav-led faction of the Janata Dal(United) said it will discuss ways to counter the NDA government’s alleged attacks on political opponents during a meeting of the party national council on October 8. “All Opposition leaders must come together on this,” said party leader Arun Srivastava.

First Published: Oct 05, 2017 22:43 IST