On Friday morning, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) carried out raids at 12 locations including the residence of former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, his wife Rabri Devi and son Tejaswi Yadav in connection with the alleged irregularities in tenders allotted to a private company Sujata Hotels for development, maintenance and operation of two railway hotels BNR Ranchi and Puri.
What is the Lalu Yadav-IRCTC controversy?
In 2004, the Railway Board transferred complete management of catering services and railway hotels to Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) by signing a memorandum, which included the BNR hotels whose transfer took place the following year. On the day of transfer of the BNR hotels, Harsh Kochhar and Vijay Kochhar, directors of the Sujata Hotels, sold a land to Delight Marketing Company for Rs 1.5 crore.
Sujata hotels bid for the development of BNR hotels in 2006 and won the contract gaining two BNR hotels in Ranchi and Puri. The Delight Marketing Company, owned by Sarla Gupta, allegedly transferred the aforementioned land gradually to Rabri Devi and her son in the course of four years, from 2010 to 2014.
What is CBI’s stand?
The CBI in its FIR listed eight persons as accused in the case:
The Yadav family: Lalu Prasad Yadav, Rabri Devi and Tejaswi Yadav;
Directors of the BNR Hotels: Vijay Kochhar and Vinay Kochhar;
Director of Delight Marketing Company and the company: Sarla Gupta, wife of Prem Chand Gupta, and M/s Lara Projects LLP
Managing Director of IRCTC: PK Goel
Electronic devices including a laptop and an iPad were retrieved by the CBI and India Today reported that the investigative agency also recovered documents relating to tenders through email.
CBI Additional Director Rakesh Asthana briefed the press that another plot of land was transferred to the Delight Marketing Company in the western Patna at a lesser market price.
The CBI has raided the premises of Lalu Yadav, in Delhi, Patna, Ranchi, Puri and Gurgaon. Rabri Devi’s current residence 10, Circular Road has also been raided by agency officials. Raids in New Delhi were being conducted in New Friends Colony. In Odisha, raids were carried out at Chanakya BNR Hotel in Puri. The CBI conducted raids at senior RJD leader Prem Chand Gupta’s residence in New Delhi
What did Lalu Prasad Yadav and the RJD say?
Terming the CBI raids as a “witch hunt”, RJD chief Lalu said, “The raids were done to insult and humiliate me. The ruling party wants to strike down the opposition by sending CBI, IT departments (after them), by incarcerating anyone who speaks out against them” adding that, “The CBI has not found any documents relating to the alleged irregularities.”
Lalu informed the media that IRCTC had put open tenders for the development of some hotels and it was an absolute sale. He added that the tender files do not come to the minister and the central government had made this decision before he held the office of a Union Minister.
RJD unit President RC Purbey called the raids political vendetta and said that the Grand Alliance will not be dissuaded. “This is a conspiracy and politics of revenge. The alliance in Bihar is strong and we are united,” he said.
RJD leader Manoj Jha vowed to fight the matter at all levels and said, “Today is darkest day in Indian democracy, we will not be cowed down by this. Will fight legally and politically.”
What is BJP’s stand?
Post-CBI raid in the morning, BJP leader Giriraj Singh and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi demanded a statement from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and an immediate termination of office of Tejaswi Yadav as deputy CM.
Refuting allegations of political vendetta, the Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said that the CBI probe against the Yadav family was a legal procedure and the government did not have a hand in it. “The law is taking its own course, the government or party (BJP) has no role in it,” he said.
What does the Opposition say?
Questioning the silence of BJP on the matter for the past three years, INC spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “The investigation should be done in a fair manner and without political vendetta.”