Hitting back at Mohd Shahbuddin for calling him a leader born out of circumstances, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday said people know the mandate. “People of Bihar know whom they have given their support and mandate,” Nitish Kumar told the media here in reaction to Shahabuddin, who soon after he walked out of Bhagalpur Central Jail on Saturday claimed that his leader was RJD’s Lalu Prasad and not Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Nitish Kumar also said that “People’s mandate to me was not to react to any or all statements. If anybody says anything, it is not necessary to react over it,” he said.
Convicted in five cases, Shahabuddin was granted bail earlier this week in the 2014 Rajiv Roshan murder case in which he is named as a conspirator. Replying to a question after coming out of jail, Shahabuddin said, “Everyone knows whom I have been with all these years, and whom I will remain with. Nitish Kumar paristhitiyon ke neta hai (a leader born out of circumstances).”
“Mere neta agar narak mein jayenge to meri to badhyta hai main bhi unke saath jaun. Nitish Kumar gathbandhan ke mukhyamantri ho sakte hain, mere neta nahin. Lalu Prasad 27 saalon se mere neta hain, aur jab tak zinda hain, mere neta rahenge (If my leader goes to hell, I am bound to go with him. Nitish Kumar is the chief minister of the Grand Alliance, but not my leader. Lalu Prasad has been my leader for 27 years, and will remain so till he is alive),” he said.
Shahabuddin said neither was Nitish instrumental in sending him to jail, nor did he help in getting him bail. “It is part of the judicial process. Nobody sends anyone to jail. Lalu Prasad had to go to jail despite being the chief minister,” he said.
Shahabuddin was released from prison after 11 long years on Saturday to a tumultuous welcome by hundreds of cheering supporters.
He claimed that he was framed in criminal cases, and that politics had nothing to do with the bail Patna High Court granted him four days ago in a case related to the killing of a murder witness.
Shahabuddin is facing 35 criminal cases including murder, extortion and kidnapping. He was convicted in seven cases. Before his arrest in 2005, he was a Rashtriya Janata Dal MP – and a law unto himself. He was four times RJD MP from Siwan – from 1996 to 2009.
His rise as a muscleman began when he was elected as an independent legislator. His terror in Siwan lasted for over two decades. But many also saw him as a Robin Hood. He gained popularity after ordering Siwan’s doctors and lawyers in the mid 1990s to stop charging exorbitant fees from patients and clients. He is said to have helped many poor people by providing dowry and cash for their daughters’ wedding.
Amid this populist image, Shahabuddin was linked with the murder of political rivals, the most infamous being the killing of former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president Chandrasekhar in 1997.
Until the 2005 assembly polls, the campaign vehicles of other political parties were not permitted on the roads of Siwan. Rival party workers were scared to put up posters in the north Bihar constituency.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) was the only political force in Siwan that openly challenged Shahabuddin. When no one else dared, CPI-ML leader Amar Nath Yadav contested the election against Shahabuddin at great risk to his life.
During President’s rule in 2005, IAS officer C.K. Anil and IPS officer Ratan Sanjay, then the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of Siwan, cracked down on Shahabuddin, externing him from the district.
Shahabuddin was convicted for the first time in 2007 for the abduction of CPI-ML worker Chote Lal Gupta. Sentenced to life in prison, he was thereafter convicted in half a dozen other cases.
(With inputs from agencies)