Nitish sees decision to dump NDA as trigger for agencies’ action
Nitish Kumar recalled how in 2017 after CBI raids against RJD chief and his family, he had sought an explanation from the ally and wanted them to come clean in the alleged land-for-jobs scam
PATNA Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday said that central agencies have restarted a crackdown on Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad and his family members as their respective parties have once again come together to form the Mahagathbandhan government.
The statement came in the backdrop of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) questioning Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi, both former chief ministers, and issuing fresh summons to their younger son and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav in connection with an alleged land-for-jobs scam. On Friday, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also conducted raids at the houses of the RJD chief’s three daughters and a daughter-in-law.
“The matter was investigated five years back as well. After five years, once again it has come up. Why was action not taken then? What can I say. This is not an issue at all,” Kumar told reporters in Patna. “Similar things had happened in 2017 when I was on this side (in the anti-BJP camp). Now that I am here again, these things are happening again.”
Kumar recalled how in 2017 after CBI raids against RJD chief and his family, he had sought an explanation from the ally and wanted them to come clean in the alleged land-for-jobs scam. In the case, it has been alleged that jobs in the railways were allotted in lieu of land from beneficiaries during 2004 to 2009, when Lalu Prasad was the railways minister in the UPA-1 government.
Back in 2017, the chief minister was understood to have asked Tejashwi, who was also his deputy then, to resign his ministerial berth on moral grounds for the period till his name was cleared. However, the RJD was against the proposal after which Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) walked out of the ruling grand alliance. Less than 24 hours of resigning, Kumar formed a new government with the BJP.
When asked to comment on CBI and ED raids at the premises of Lalu Prasad and his family members, the chief minister said: “What do I have to say, those who are at the receiving end are giving an adequate response.”
Kumar’s remarks came hours after the RJD chief attacked the BJP for using central agencies for “political vendetta”.
In a series of tweets in Hindi on Friday night, Prasad said: “…In a baseless and motivated case, BJP’s ED has kept my daughters, my grand children and pregnant daughter-in-law for 15 hours. Will the BJP stoop so low to fight a political battle with us?”
He added: “I have an ideological difference with the BJP and Sangh (RSS) and continue to have it. No one from my family or party will ever bow down…”
Meanwhile, the opposition BJP in Bihar questioned the chief minister’s silence on the case and asked him to “come clean on the issue of corruption”.
BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand said: “It was him (Kumar) and others like Lallan Singh and Shivanand Tiwary who were whistleblower against Lalu and his family in fodder scam, IRCTC scam and disproportionate asset case. Now, if Nitish ji has this feeling that the RJD chief and his family are victims, then he should openly apologise to the people of Bihar and India for every question he has raised against Lalu and his misrule and corruption.”
Anand added: “The Bihar CM has no moral ground to stand by RJD chief or address to the people of Bihar, whom he has cheated time and again.”
CBI has filed a charge sheet in the alleged land-for-jobs scam against Prasad, Rabri Devi and 14 others under charges of criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, and all the accused have been summoned on March 15 by a special court. The federal agency summoned Tejashwi for questioning on Saturday after he had skipped the previous date on March 4. However, the deputy CM again sought a fresh date citing personal reasons, officials said.
On Saturday, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged the BJP-led Union government was indulging in politics of “suppressing” the unyielding voices of the Opposition, and claimed that the action by central agencies against Tejashwi was part of this.
“Why is the BJP government so scared of the vocal voices of the Opposition?” the Congress general secretary said in a tweet in Hindi. “The action of agencies on Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav ji is inspired by this politics.”
She added: “The public is watching everything, and will take all this into account.”
On Friday, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge accused the BJP-led Centre of making “sinister attempts to kill democracy” by misusing probe agencies against Opposition leaders.