For all the multiple convictions and condemnations for a single “crime” of alleged ‘Fodder scam’ during his tenure as the chief minister of undivided Bihar, Lalu Prasad will go down in the annals of modern Indian history corresponding to the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as a leader of highest political integrity.
Look at his contemporary Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati who was roaring and walking tall once upon a time, but has apparently abandoned her fight against the ruling BJP for fear of BJP implicating her in corruption cases. And the BJP on its part has not only kept all such cases in abeyance but only the other day, of all the people Home Minister Amit Shah rose to her defence to claim she is a force to reckon with in UP and that because of her committed Dalit votes, a good section of Muslims will also vote for her. Immediately Behenji responded with a hearty thanks to the Union Home Minister. Shows the BJP is banking on the BSP acting as a spoilsport in the people’s bid to defeat the BJP in the current assembly elections and Behenji working to secure one more term for saffron clad Yogi Adityanath. Some fond hope for a leader, who in this current crucial UP Assembly election is hardly seen or heard.
Or for that matter the self-professed leader of the Muslim community, Asaduddin Owaisi who has fielded around 100 candidates only to act, as Lalu had described him a ‘Vote Katuwa’ and rightly so. Amit Shah offered Owaisi Z+ security, which he provided to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh convicted in 2017 for 20 years on charges of rape and murder, released by the Haryana government on February 7 for 21 days furlough on parole presumably to influence Dalit Sikh voters of Punjab in favour of the BJP. Don’t forget even Rajiv Gandhi as a former Prime Minister was not favoured with such generosity, and died at the hands of a human bomb at Sripreumbudur with virtually no personal security cover, except for an unarmed Delhi Police inspector.
Look at the irony. A convicted rapist and murderer is roaming around free with Z+ security and a people’s leader Lalu Yadav has been languishing in jail in a series of convictions, coming one after the other for evidently a single so-called crime of presiding over the fodder scam worth close to one thousand crore, as his BJP/JD-U detractors often allege. And the anti-OBC media gleefully keeps predicting of more cases still pending against Lalu Prasad.
Even Mulayam Singh Yadav, played footsie with the BJP off and on. The decision of former Prime Minister V P Singh to implement the Mandal Commission report and empower the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) brought great hopes of transformation of the society through these OBC and Dalit leaders of northern India. But the years since, with the exception of Lalu Prasad, each one of them has capitulated to the BJP. Some for power and pelf like Nitish Kumar or Hukam Deo Narain Singh Yadav or Ram Vilas Paswan and even Sharad Yadav others fearing BJP’s propensity to file criminal cases, often baseless, against these leaders which will keep dragging on endlessly in the courts, like they are punishing Anil Deshmukh and now Nawab Malik through blatant misuse of central agencies.
I am certain that eventually the highest court will one day pronounce Lalu “not guilty” of committing any crime at all. But by then he might be dead and gone. Because in any case if Lalu had misappropriated public funds to the tune of around 1000 crore rupees, from the Bihar treasury in what has been described as “Fodder scam (meaning scam relating to cattle fodder) as is made out by the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) then there would have been visible evidence of him having amassed at least some wealth. But the CBI after going on a fishing expedition all over the world for years to discover Lalu’s “ill-gotten wealth” submitted a charge sheet to the courts in a Disproportionate Assets (DA) case, finding Lalu’s total assets at only somewhere around 40 lakh rupees. And Lalu’s counsel claimed that even that amount was highly exaggerated because they calculated the cost of various pieces of land in his native village at Delhi’s land cost of that period.
Had Lalu also compromised and made peace with the BJP, would he have suffered the same torture and humiliation, which no political leader, including Jagannath Mishra, in whose tenure the Bihar officials started fodder scam, faced? The BJP has become more upfront and blasé since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014 and later Yogi became UP chief minister in 2017. The latest, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister in Maharashtra Nawab Malik was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), on some charges pertaining to alleged land purchase of 1999 in Mumbai. It is evident that the Modi government did not take kindly to Malik exposing the BJP plot in targeting film star Shahrukh Khan’s son and arresting him under the trumped up charges relating to Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act when there was no such substance on his person.
Soon after Lalu’s RJD and JDU won against the BJP-LJP combine in 2015 assembly elections, and formed a government, sources in Patna started noticing that a prominent Yadav BJP leader was frequently flying to Patna meeting Rabri Devi, asking her to persuade Lalu to pull the rug from under Nitish’s feet. In turn she was offered that not only her son Tejaswi will be made the chief minister with BJP support but all fodder cases against Lalu will also be brushed under the carpet. The offer appears plausible because the BJP handled other leaders the same way, including the current Assam chief minister, Hemant Biswa Sarma, or Bengal’s Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari. Innumerable leaders from the Opposition crossed over to the saffron side once the BJP threatened to slap corruption cases against them. Lalu dismissed the offer point blank and soon thereafter was sent to jail. Only when that mission failed, they turned to Nitish who willingly obliged, jettisoned RJD and sat in BJP’s lap. If Lalu as the state chief minister can be convicted for the fodder scam during his chief ministership of Bihar, how should the same set of laws deal with Narendra Modi for the Rafael scam, the Nirav Modi scam, latest Gujarat coal scam, NSE scam, ABG scam, and you name it every day one or the other tumbles out of this Government’s cupboard, but there is not a murmur anywhere.
Even assuming Lalu’s guilt in fodder scam, it is unusual in judicial history to split the same case into several parts and then convict a person for the same alleged crime, successively and not even concurrently. Whether this is legally just, is a matter still pending with the higher courts. Meanwhile it is noteworthy that in October 2016 the case against Lalu in Disproportionate Assets (DA) case was decided in his favour and he was acquitted in that case on the basis of the CBI chargesheet submitted in the year 2000 under the then NDA government in Delhi. Just shows the animus against an OBC politician defiant of the BJP.