Two days after the 2G verdict cleared all the accused, the BJP on Saturday received a shot in the arm for its corruption plank against the Congress-led UPA when a special CBI court in Ranchi convicted RJD chief Lalu Prasad in the case of fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from Deogarh treasury between 1991 and 1994, when Lalu was the chief minister in his first term in the then undivided Bihar.
The Congress, which celebrated the verdict in 2G case, in which leaders of ally DMK were involved, distanced itself from Lalu’s conviction. The opposition party instead raked up the Srijan scandal. Drawing a parallel between the fodder scam and the Srijan case, the Congress asked why the Srijan case is not being investigated.
The Srijan scandal involves large amounts of government fund allegedly being transferred fraudulently in the account of an NGO between 2004 and 2014 — the JD(U)-BJP alliance was in power for a large part of this period.
Addressing the media at the BJP headquarters, Union minister J P Nadda said, “The alliance between Congress and Lalu Prasad’s party is an alliance of corruption, connivance and cheating the people of India — it is clear from the verdict of the court.”
Nadda took strong exception to Prasad’s attempt to term it as muzzling of voices of dissent. “Lalu Prasad is even now politicising the issue instead of accepting the verdict, just to deviate he is leveling allegations of conspiracy on BJP,” he said. In Patna, ruling alliance partners BJP and JD(U) reacted sharply to Lalu’s son and former minister Tej Pratap’s attempt to give the issue a caste angle. Senior BJP leader and Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted: “Lalu was convicted for the 1st time during UPA regime and now blaming BJP? How BJP can influence judicial process? Court has convicted Lalu not BJP.”
Modi also criticised RJD leader Shivanand Tewary for “defending the indefensible”, as Tewary had been one of the fodder scam petitioners along with him. JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi said, “Linking court verdict to caste angle is unfortunate, and an insult to the judiciary. The verdict indicting Lalu Prasad has been part of the judicial process. The RJD can seek next legal course of action but must not malign judiciary”.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, a leader from Bihar, said, “For me, it is a matter of some personal assurance — I had the privilege to argue the PIL in Patna High Court in the early 1990s, leading to the institution of CBI inquiry, which was strongly opposed by the then state government headed by Lalu Yadav. The lesson of today’s conviction is that law will catch up with you if you commit corruption.”
At the AICC headquarters, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari said, “Lalu Prasad has been fighting this legal battle since 1996. It started when some leaders associated with the BJP filed a PIL in Patna High Court. As far as today’s verdict and Lalu Prasad is concerned, he and his lawyer are capable of fighting the legal battle. We have always believed that the law should take its own course.”
On the party’s tie-up with the RJD, Tewari said the Congress has had alliances with the RJD since 1996. The RJD was part of the UPA government and the grand alliance in Bihar. “Criminal cases and political alliances are two different things,” he added.
He said the central charge in Lalu’s case was alleged embezzlement from state treasury. “Why isn’t the Srijan scam being investigated because the central charge in the Srijan scam is also the same? The central charge is alleged embezzlement from the state treasury, and the quantum of embezzlement is of a major greater order. That alleged embezzlement across a number of treasuries in Bihar took place when the current chief minister (Nitish Kumar) was the chief minister earlier, and the current finance minister (Sushil Modi), who is from the BJP, was the finance minister,” Tewari said.
“So if the courts are establishing a principle with regard to judicial adjudication of alleged offenses relating to alleged embezzlement from the treasury…then why is it that the Srijan scam is not being investigated? Why are there different strokes for different folks,” he asked.