Notorious don-turned politician Mohammad Shahabuddin’s poorly managed trial in the much-highlighted Rajiv Roshan murder case has highlighted the divide between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and ally RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav. A lonely Nitish is taking blow after blow as the Bihar government scrambles to approach the Supreme Court for cancellation of Shahabuddin’s bail. Surprisingly, the government did not invoke the crime control act while Shahabuddin was in prison to keep him behind bars. Bihar now reeks of a crumbling alliance in power. For reasons best known to Nitish, he comes across as a helpless head of a state executive busy in damage control.
The murder convict Shahabuddin’s public courting of wanted sharp shooter Mohammad Kaif outside Bhagalpur prison on Saturday raised serious concerns about the Bihar government and state police’s will to handle Shahabuddin’s trial. Kaif is wanted for the murder of Hindustan daily’s Siwan Bureau Chief Rajdev Ranjan. Not surprisingly, Kaif even accompanied Shahabuddin in his over the top show of strength when he travelled in a 300-car cavalcade from Bhagalpur Jail to the latter’s home in Siwan.
Lalu’s return to power has visibly reduced Nitish’s power and resuscitated Shahabuddin’s in Bihar. When arch rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav joined hands against the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar this year, questions were raised concerning the future law and order situation in the state and whether it may fall back into the ‘jungle raj’ years when Shahabuddin’s reign of terror loomed large in Siwan. Shahabuddin, who was released on bail on September 7, took a swipe at Nitish, also the JDU chief, dubbing him circumstantial chief minister. Nitish downplayed Shahabuddin’s comment saying he has received the mandate from the people of Bihar and people should not pay heed to such comments.
When Shahabuddin was jailed in 2005, Nitish was hand in glove with the BJP and Shahabuddin was a RJD MP. Nitish is, in fact, credited with ending Shahabuddin’s reign of terror and going all out to block any bail applications in his case. The murder convict has 40 criminal cases against his name and his being spotted with a wanted shooter raises questions about violations of the bail agreement. Henceforth, Nitish and his government have looked to the Supreme Court to get the Patna High Court’s bail order for Shahabuddin cancelled.
Meanwhile, the opposition BJP has attacked Nitish for showing a lax attitude in the matter. JDU MLA Girdhari Yadav was also seen interacting with Shahabuddin. The party has been quick to announce action against him. BJP leader Sushil Modi has levied serious charges against the state government for allowing a stage managed release of Shahabuddin and that Nitish should sacrifice his government in a bid to achieve the corrective measures. Taking extreme measures like such advised by Modi will not be prudent for Nitish. However, a review on his relationship with Lalu is a must if he is to continue in power without being made the scapegoat for every messup.