RJD leaders jittery ahead of Lalu Prasad’s sentencing today
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leaders and workers are hoping for a jail term less than three years for party patriarch Lalu Prasad when a special CBI court on Wednesday announces the quantum of punishment in a 21-year-old fodder scam case.
The 69-year-old former chief minister of Bihar will be able to seek bail immediately at the lower court only if the sentence is less than three years in the case, related to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 90 lakh from the Deoghar treasury during 1991-1994.
Besides Lalu Prasad, special judge Shivpal Singh had convicted 15 other people while acquitting six others including former chief minister Jagannath Mishra.
“If it (the sentence) is more than three years, we would have to move the Ranchi high court for bail. It would take at least one month for the release of Lalu ji in that case,” said Bhola Yadav, an MLC and a close aide of the RJD chief.
Lalu is now lodged at the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi where the case is being heard.
In the first fodder scam case in which Lalu was convicted, the court had sentenced him to five years in prison in 2013, following which the RJD chief had to spend 70 days in Ranchi jail before he got bail.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed,” said another RJD leader.
The conviction led to his disqualification from Parliament and a ban on contesting elections.
Sources said Lalu’s family members would not be in Ranchi on Wednesday with younger son and leader of the opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and wife Rabri Devi likely to stay put in Patna.
Tejashwi, however, said he had full faith in the judiciary and would respect the court’s order, whatever it is. “Whatever the court orders, we will respect it,” he said.
The court’s verdict would have a major impact on the RJD’s rank and file either way. If Lalu goes to jail, it would throw up a new challenge for RJD’s first family, including Lalu’s two sons, Tejashwi and Tej Pratap, to steer the party and draw up a strategy to keep dissidence at bay.
Sources said the RJD has called a meeting on January 6 of all district presidents and state leaders where organisational matters and agitational programme against the state government’s alleged failure would be finalised. A statewide agitation after January 15 to involve all district units and state leaders is on anvil too in an apparent bid to keep the rank and file busy and party intact in absence of RJD chief.
In last one week since Lalu’s conviction, former chief minister Rabri Devi has been convening meetings with party legislators along with Tejashwi and appealed to party workers to keep their morale high.