Updated: June 26, 2018 11:19:45 am
From his wife to his nine children, the family has been as much a part of the Lalu story as his survival instincts. Both are now on test with Central agencies closing in on his family, reports SANTOSH SINGH
At first, it appeared to be an innocuous revelation. A Patna zoo employee told curious morning walkers, some three months ago, that the soil being used for an extended pathway at the premises was from “Laluji’s mall”. But soon, the dirt trail would lead from the zoo to “Bihar’s biggest mall”, before finally ending in raids at 10, Circular Road, Patna — RJD legislature party leader Rabri Devi’s official residence.
The current CBI raids on the RJD top brass, 20 years after the first in 1997 that exposed the fodder scam, relate to Lalu’s tenure as the Union railway minister (2004-2009). They came after an FIR, in which younger son Tejashwi and wife Rabri have been named.
But even by the standards of someone who has never let corruption charges derail his political career, the current crisis is uncharted territory for the RJD chief. For one, it has dragged his children into the mix and threatens to derail their nascent political careers. Apart from the CBI FIR, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is closing in on Misa Bharti and her husband Shailesh Kumar in an alleged money laundering case of Rs 8,000 crore. And with Lalu’s other children — Tej Pratap Yadav, the elder of his two sons, and daughters Chanda and Ragini — also stakeholders in some under-scanner companies, the Bihar first family’s legal woes only look set to compound in the coming days.
RJD national spokesperson Manoj Kumar Jha, however, termed the raids an attempt to silence Lalu’s “vocal posture against the right-wing authoritarian regime of the BJP and RSS.”
“The present regime, which has directed the agency to investigate a ‘quid pro quo’ in the award of these contracts, has chosen to ignore the fact that under the same process, leases were awarded to the Tata group in December 2006. The alleged transaction of the land to Delight Marketing, owned by Laluji’s family, took place in February 2005 on the basis of reasonable and adequate compensation as per the extant circle rate,” he says.
As the crisis engulfs the family and calls for Tejashwi to step down get shriller, a former Lalu aide says the RJD chief would “surely have a Plan B”. “In 1997, when he had to quit as CM, he had Rabri’s name in mind, but he created a situation where his supporters declared her name. Though people such as Abdul Bari Siddiqui (RJD leader and state finance minister), Lalit Yadav (a senior MLA) and Ramchandra Purve (RJD state president) stand an outside chance to get some important role, Laluji will again create a situation so that power stays within his family.”
Lalu Prasad, 69, RJD chief
Assets: Rs 3.21 crore (immoveable Rs 2.5 cr; moveable Rs 71 lakh) as per 2009 Lok Sabha poll affidavit.
Lalu first became Bihar chief minister in 1990 and was re-elected in 1995, when he was hit by the fodder scam. In July 1997, after a court issued an arrest warrant against him, Lalu resigned and nominated wife Rabri Devi as his successor. Lalu never returned as CM, though he did go on to serve a celebrated stint as Union railway minister in 2004, under UPA-I, on the strength of his 26 Lok Sabha seats. It is this stint that is now under the CBI scanner for a deal involving two railways hotels.
In its FIR, the CBI alleges that in 2006-7, the RJD chief “rigged and manipulated the tender process” while leasing out two railway-run hotels, BNR Puri and BNR Ranchi, to a private firm, Sujata Hotels. In return, the CBI alleges, the directors of the Sujata Hotels transferred three acres of prime land in Patna to a suspected shell company, Delight Marketing Company Private Limited (DMPCL), which has links to Lalu’s family.
Defending the deal, Lalu has said, “Whatever property my family has, it is very much in the public domain.” He has also described the cases as being the result of “the politics of vendetta being played by the BJP”.
Former JD(U) MP Shivanand Tiwari, who has worked closely with both Lalu and Nitish, says Lalu must stick to that line and “not fall into the BJP’s trap”. “Lalu has been saying that Tejashwi is facing charges by the CBI, a Central agency, not any of the state agencies, and that it’s a clear case of political vendetta. He should stick to that,” says Tiwari, one of the most active mediators these days between the RJD and JD(U), adding that the present crisis in the Grand Alliance has been aggravated by a “communication gap” between Lalu and Nitish.
An RJD leader insists the crisis, though “serious”, won’t break the party. “There will be attempts to break the RJD in the coming days, but the party does not have another leader like Lalu, with whom two-thirds of the MLAs can break away. Nitish Kumar had nearly broken us in 2013, when we were a 23-MLA party. We are now 80. Had there been 10 more MLAs between RJD and Congress, we would not have needed Nitish to form the government.” Together, the RJD (80) and Congress (27) have 107 seats, 15 short of a simple majority.”
RABRI DEVI, 61, MLC
Assets: Rs 6.33 cr (Immoveable Rs 3.61cr; moveable Rs 2.72 cr), as per 2014 Lok Sabha poll affidavit.
Business interests: Designated partner, Lara Projects LLP
Rabri is a far cry from the 41-year-old who almost broke down when thrust into power after Lalu resigned due to the fodder scam. She had then governed with the help of her eldest child, Misa, then 21. While she lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy, she is currently a Member of the Legislative Council and the RJD legislature party leader. With sons Tej and Tejashwi taking on the mantle, she has taken a backseat.
The CBI FIR in the railway hotel case charges Rabri with forgery and criminal conspiracy. Rabri is alleged to have received shares of Delight Marketing Company for far below the market rate as quid pro quo for the railway hotel deal. So far, she has not responded to the CBI case against her.
The Bihar BJP unit alleges that in another quid pro quo deal, she became a stakeholder in AK Infosystems Private Limited, created by businessmen, Amit Katyal and Rajesh Katyal, who later allegedly transferred all of its shares to Rabri and Tejashwi.
TEJ PRATAP YADAV, 26, Minister
(*Though older than Tejashwi, his birth certificate shows him as being a year younger)
Assets: Rs 2.01 cr (Immoveable: Rs 88.72 lakh; moveable Rs 1.49 cr) as per 2015 Assembly poll affidavit. This includes a Honda CBR1000RR motorcycle and a BMW car
Business interests: With 2.51 lakh shares, is biggest stakeholder in Lara Distributors Pvt Ltd; director in AK Infosystems Private Limited; a majority stakeholder in Delhi-based AB Exports Private Limited
Known to be deeply religious, Tej Pratap is the elder of Lalu and Rabri’s two sons and the seventh of their nine children. An MLA from Vaishali, Tej’s foray into politics was facilitated by his father’s insistence that his sons would be his political heirs. Never known to be too politically inclined, Tej seldom speaks in the Assembly; the fact that other ministers answer questions regarding his departments has often been commented upon. While younger brother Tejashwi was picked over him to be deputy chief minister, Tej got three ministries and is the unofficial No. 3 in the Bihar Cabinet. Though the two brothers are known to share a good rapport, he said last year, “Since Tejashwi is deputy CM, he should marry first.” Many interpreted this as faint displeasure at losing out to Tejashwi in the Deputy CM race.
Tej Pratap’s business interests first became news when he opened a motorcycle showroom in Aurangabad in 2012. The showroom belongs to the family firm Lara (or Lalu-Rabri) Projects LLP, which was earlier Delight Marketing. The BJP points out that Tej Pratap made no mention of the showroom in his 2015 Assembly poll affidavit.
Tej Pratap himself became an additional director with Delight on January 6, 2014. He and Tejashwi were first appointed to the posts, before sisters Chanda Yadav (June 26, 2014) and Ragini Lalu (August 5, 2016) joined them. Now, as Lara, the company only has Tej Pratap and Tejashwi as directors, with Rabri as a designated partner.
Like Tejashwi, Tej Pratap has been “gifted” plots by various politicians: In 2005, then Union Minister Kanti Singh gifted him a 9.3 decimal plot with a house in Patna. The same year, another former Union minister, Raghunath Jha, gifted Tej Pratap a house along with 4,200 square feet of land in Gopalganj.
TEJASHWI PRASAD YADAV, 27,
Assets: Rs 2.32 cr (Immoveable Rs 91.52 lakh; moveable Rs 1.4 cr) as per 2015 Assembly poll affidavit
Business interests: Director in Lara Projects LLP, minority stakeholder with A K Infosystems Private Limited, major stakeholder in AB Exports Private Limited. Director of the Kolkata-based Fairgrow Holdings Private Limited.
At the heart of the current controversy is Tejashwi, Lalu’s younger son and chosen political heir. Having studied at Delhi Public School, R K Puram, Tejashwi dropped out in Class 9, before embarking on a brief cricketing career, during which he was part of the Delhi Daredevils IPL squad for four years, but never played a match.
He plunged into full-time politics from 2012 onwards. Apart from Lalu and Rabri, Tejashwi is the only other family member to be named in the CBI FIR in the land-for-hotel case. Despite the pressure on him to resign, Tejashwi has, as “proof” of his “innocence”, pointed out that he was only 14 when the rail hotel deal was struck in 2005.
As pressure builds on Tejashwi to step down, an RJD MLA says there is a view among the party legislators that if Tejashwi has to resign, the RJD chief should get someone like Abdul Bari Siddiqui as Deputy CM. “If Laluji thinks beyond his family, it will not only send out a good signal to the cadre, but will keep the party united. But I am not sure Tej Pratap will accept such a decision, even if Laluji does. This is where the party looks short on confidence now,” he says.
Siddiqui, on his part, has been sticking to Lalu’s line that Tejashwi should not step down. Former Union minister and RJD national vice president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh says, “Our stand on Tejashwi is clear. Has JD(U) demanded his resignation? They have only been asking him to explain. RJD’s 27 August rally will give all those explanations.”
MISA BHARTI, 41, Rajya Sabha MP
Assets: Rs 4 cr as per her Rajya Sabha affidavit. This includes Rs 24.3 lakh in jewellery and precious stones; agricultural land worth Rs 33 lakh; non-agricultural land: Rs 50 lakh
Business interests: Director, Lara Distributors Private Limited.
Misa was named after the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), under which Lalu was jailed during the Emergency. She first made news for being granted admission to the MGM Medical College, Jamshedpur, under the TISCO quota (Tata Iron and Steel Company used to have a quota of four seats, which was discontinued in 2009 because of alleged misuse). She later shifted to Patna Medical College and Hospital, from where she graduated as a “topper”. She has, however, never practised.
For some time, Misa served as Rabri’s de facto advisor during her first stint as CM. Misa was also credited with curtailing the influence of Rabri’s controversial brothers, Sadhu Yadav and Subhash Yadav. Misa was believed to have fought with her parents to get a Lok Sabha ticket from Pataliputra in 2014, forcing long-time family loyalist Ram Kripal Yadav out of the party. He finally beat her on a BJP ticket.
The Enforcement Directorate has been on the trail of Misa and her husband Shailesh Kumar, an engineer with Infosys when the two married in 1999, since it recently arrested Rajesh Aggarwal, a chartered accountant who worked for the couple. In a money-laundering investigation allegedly worth Rs 8,000 crore, the ED has accused Misa and Shailesh of running shell companies to “convert black money into white”. It led to raids at her farmhouse at Bijwasan on the outskirts of Delhi. Misa has called the ED raids “part of political vendetta” but said she would “cooperate with the investigating agency”. She has two daughters, Durga and Gauri, and a son.
ROHINI ACHARYA, 39
Business interests: Not known
Like Misa, Rohini took admission in MGM Medical College, Jamshedpur, under the TISCO quota. Her 2002 wedding to Samaresh Singh, a computer engineer based in the US and the son of a former Income Tax commissioner, became controversial when her uncles Sadhu and Subhash Yadav forcibly got brand new cars from Patna showrooms to welcome the guests. Rohini and her daughter Aayana are rarely seen in public; making appearances only for family get-togethers.
While Rohini is not known to be associated with any business venture, Sushil Modi alleges she owns a Rs 60 lakh flat in a Patna building that recently caught fire.
CHANDA YADAV, 37
Business interests: director in AK Infosystems Private Limited, stakeholder in AB Exports Private Limited
“A tiger does not lose sleep over the opinion of sheep,” reads Chanda Yadav’s Twitter bio. Her wedding, to Indian Airlines pilot Vikram Singh, took place in Delhi in 2006, when Lalu was railway minister, and was noted for its pomp. She has a son named Arjun.
When she was an additional director of Delight Marketing, she was allegedly instrumental in the firm signing an agreement with Meridian Construction (India) Limited, a company owned by RJD MLA Abu Dojana, for the construction of the mall. Chanda and sister Ragini were removed as additional directors when the firm was renamed as Lara Projects LLP on February 14, 2017. Chanda has not reacted to the charges against her.
RAGINI KUMARI, 35
Business interests: Owns 1 lakh shares in Lara Distributors Private Limited; director, AK Infosystems Private Limited.
Ragini had got enrolled in the Birla Institute of Technology in Ranchi but did not complete her degree. She later turned an LIC agent. She is married to Rahul Singh, the son of Ghaziabad-based UP Congress politician, Jitendra Yadav, who was once with the Samajwadi Party. SP leader Shivpal Yadav is said to have played matchmaker. Rahul, a hotel management graduate from Switzerland, had contested the 2017 Assembly election as an SP candidate but lost from Sikandrabad, Bulandshahr. The couple have a son, Rudransh. Ragini has not reacted to charges against her.
HEMA YADAV, 33
Business interests: Not known
Hema married Vinit Yadav, who comes from a business family in Haryana, in 2012, and the couple live in Delhi. The state BJP alleges that Hema owns a “benami land plot” worth Rs 62 lakh in Patna. Its land deed shows that it was gifted to Hema on February 13, 2014, by one Lalan Choudhary, a resident of Siwan and a BPL card holder.
ANUSHKA YADAV, 31
Business interests: Not known
Anushka is married to Chiranjeev Rao, former NSUI president and former Haryana Youth Congress chief. He is the son of Captain Ajay Singh, the Haryana power minister in former CM Bhupendra Hooda’s Cabinet and a six-time MLA. Anushka had campaigned for her father-in-law who had contested from Rewari in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
According to Yadav’s affidavit, filed during the 2014 Assembly polls, he has a personal wealth of Rs 22.88 crore, besides business establishments that include a petrol pump and a Hero Honda Motor Cycle agency.
An interior designer, Anushka is currently pursuing her LLB from a college in Rewari. Anushka has a daughter, Nandini.
RAJ LAKSHMI YADAV, 25
Not in public life
Assets: Rs 14.5 lakh, according to Rabri Devi’s 2014 poll affidavit
The youngest child of Bihar’s power couple, Raj Lakshmi’s wedding helped her father mend ties with another Yadav stalwart, Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose prime ministerial ambitions he had snuffed out in 1996 by favouring H D Deve Gowda. Raj Lakshmi is married to Mulayam’s grand nephew and Mainpuri MP Tej Pratap Singh, whom she met at Amity University in Noida.
Inputs from Sukhbir Siwach
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.