A DAY after the Supreme Court decided to restore criminal charges against RJD chief Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam, amid speculation in some sections that the development could lead to a political realignment in Bihar and bring JD(U), a former NDA ally, closer to the saffron party, Union law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said it is JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar’s “call”.
“We need to recall that the BJP did not leave Nitish Kumar. He left us. Therefore it is for him to take a call,” Prasad told The Indian Express.
Some BJP leaders also want the Bihar CM to “correct himself” first before considering a reunion. “Nitish Kumar will have to repent and carry out many corrective measures because he had insulted our leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If he takes initiatives and correct himself, the BJP will consider it (reunion with JDU),” a senior BJP leader said.
Lalu Prasad, whose party is the biggest constituent in Bihar’s ruling alliance, had been barred from contesting elections after the CBI court in September 2013 sentenced him to five years in prison. After eight years as chief minister in the JD(U)-BJP alliance government in Bihar, Nitish had left the NDA camp in 2013. He joined hands with Lalu’s RJD, and the Congress, before the 2015 state elections.
Ravi Shankar Prasad said it is “shocking” to see JD-U which once fought against Lalu’s corruption, is defending the RJD leader. “Seeing JD-U defending Lalu Prasad shocks me. Have they forgotten the legacy of Samata Party?,” he said.
Interestingly, Prasad, Lalu and Kumar had played different roles in the history of fodder scam. Their association goes back to 1970s when Lalu was the president of Patna University Student’s union and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi was general secretary and Ravi Shankar Prasad was the assistant general secretary. In 1990s, during Lalu’s tenure as the Chief Minister of Bihar, Sushil Modi was the main petitioner in the PIL against him over the fodder scam and Ravi Shankar Prasad was the main arguing counsel seeking a CBI probe into it.
Later Kumar broke away from Lalu mainly over the issue of corruption and formed Samata Party and joined the campaign against fodder scam. Another leader Lalan Singh joined him. Now when the Supreme Court has reinstated criminal conspiracy charges, Kumar is the chief minister with the support of Lalu’s RJD and Lalan Singh is a minister in the cabinet while Prasad is the law minister at the Centre.
According to Ravi Shankar Prasad, fodder scam was the biggest of the scams of those times. “Bihar government was never interested in a fair investigation during Lalu Prasad. Fodder scam was the biggest of all scams in those times. It involved embezzlement of around Rs. 1,000 crore from the Bihar government treasury during Lalu’s tenure as Bihar chief minister between 1990-97, even the Bofors was of Rs. 60 crore,” he said, adding: “Unfortunately fodder scam lost its sheen in the enormity of CWG and 2G scams.”
He said Kumar’s silence over the issue was surprising. “There is a general impression that Nitish Kumar tries to live by the standards of propriety. But of late his conspicuous silence on repeated cases of improprieties of Lalu Prasad raises a lot of questions,” Prasad said.