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Will prefer to hang rather than succumb to BJP pressure, says weary Lalu after CBI raids

After appearing in a CBI special court in Ranchi, on Friday, the RJD chief told reporters the BJP and RSS were trying to implicate him and his family in false cases and put them in jail before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.

india Updated: Jul 08, 2017 20:43 IST
Avinash Kumar and Bedanti Saran
Avinash Kumar and Bedanti Saran
Hindustan Times, Patna/Ranchi
Lalu Prasad,Ranchi court,CBI raids
RJD chief Lalu Prasad addresses reporters in Patna, after CBI raids, on Friday. Also seen is his son Tejashwi. (Santosh/HT photo)

Presenting a bold front in the wake of the CBI raids at his residence and other premises, that lasted close to 11 hours, RJD chief Lalu Prasad promised all cooperation to the CBI in its investigations into allotment of railway hotels contracts in 2006 when he was the Union railway minister.

“I received a call from Patna about the arrival of the CBI raid party and I immediately asked my family members to co-operate fully,” said a haggard looking Lalu, who had gone to Ranchi to appear in a special CBI court in connection with a 1990s fodder scam case.

A large number of his supporters had assembled outside Lalu’s house in Patna as soon as the news of his return spread. The crowd forcibly entered his house as soon as his convoy came. Lalu and other senior RJD leaders, then, addressed the party workers.

“Look at the vindictive attitude of (PM Narendra) Modi and Amit Shah. They did not spare my minor son,” he said, while referring to his younger son, deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who has been named as an accused in the railways hotels’ lease case.

Official records show Tejashwi is in his mid-20s.

As Lalu was presenting his side of story to the media, Tejashwi suddenly lost his cool over the presence of reporter of a TV channel. “We are boycotting your channel. You may go away,” he shouted as Lalu and finance minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui tried to pacify him. The commotion led to an abrupt end of Lalu’s interaction with the media.

Earlier in the day, at Ranchi, an unusually docile RJD chief, while talking to media persons at the state guest, said, “‘I am not the one to be cowed down.”

Minutes after appearing at the special CBI court , Prasad told reporters the BJP and RSS were trying to intimidate him and implicate his family in false cases. “The BJP is wary of me. It wants to put me and my family in jail before the 2019 parliamentary polls. The raids are part of political vendetta. Lalu will prefer to hang rather than succumbing to BJP pressure,” he said.

CBI officials carried out the raids on Friday after registering cases against him, his wife Rabri Devi and their son, Tejashwi, in the matter pertaining to allotment of railway hotel contracts in 2006 when Lalu was the Union railway minister.

The CBI has also booked Rajya Sabha member Prem Chand Gupta’s wife, Sarla Gupta and businessmen Vijay Kochhar and Vinay Kochhar, among others in the case.

“I do not blame the CBI sleuths. They are acting on the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and the RSS. It was unfair to raid my house in my absence. Still I have advised my family members to cooperate with the CBI officials and ensure their exit smoothly under our police protection,” Prasad said.

He said he has no idea how and when a fresh case has been filed against him. “The entire operation to implicate me was planned and executed so covertly that even my media friends didn’t get a whiff of it. How could they procure a search warrant so quickly,” he wondered.

As he spoke, he took out a chit from his Kurta pocket to counter the CBI charges in the alleged railway hotel contract scam.

He said the allotment of the railway rest houses to private firms was carried out by an autonomous body, IRCTC, which was formed in 1999 and became operational in 2002. In 2003, the railway ministry handed over its rest houses, which were in utter shambles, to IRCTC.

NDA was in power at the time and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister.

Prasad said he assumed charge of the railway ministry on May 31, 2004. Two years later, IRCTC floated an open tender to lease out these properties for a period of 15 years for their development and proper upkeep. “You may find out, no IRCTC files come to the railway ministry for approval,” he stressed.

Prasad reminded reporters that during his tenure, Indian railways became a profitable entity from a loss making one and the success story became a subject for study at various national and international institutions, including Harvard university in the USA and IIM, Ahmedabad.

“I never indulged in any corrupt practice during my tenure though there were opportunities for me to make big money”, Lalu said.

The present government, the RJD chief said, was taking the Indian railways towards privatization. “I am told the entire catering services have been leased out to private players. Today, a second AC ticket costs higher than air fares,” he rued.

Lalu also accused the government of insulting him. “This government doesn’t want people to complain. It is trying to stifle people’s voices. People like me who speak out are being threatened by misusing investigating agencies like CBI, ED and IT”, he said.

The RJD chief speculated his decision to hold a massive rally christened,’Bharat bachao, BJP bhagao’, in Patna on August 27 could be a reason behind the fresh CBI case.

First Published: Jul 07, 2017 21:44 IST