The BJP in Bihar on Saturday called for a criminal case to be filed against RJD chief Lalu Prasad after a TV channel aired a purported taped telephone conversation in which former MP Mohammed Shahabuddin is heard complaining to Lalu about a police officer. Shahabuddin allegedly made the call from Bihar’s Siwan jail in April 2016.
In the purported conversation aired on Republic TV, Shahabuddin voices displeasure over Siwan Superintendent of Police Saurav Kumar Sah’s inadequate police deployment on Ram Navami amid communal tension.
Lalu is heard purportedly asking about problem areas in the audio and subsequently promising to look into them.
While BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi called it an instance of “breakdown of law and order” and sought President’s rule to be imposed in the state, RJD spokesperson Manoj Kumar Jha brushed aside calls for an investigation. “If any conversation has to be investigated, it is the directive given to police officers by then home minister in Gujarat to follow and report whereabouts about a girl but they shall not do it,’’ he told The Sunday Express.
According to the report, the purported phone call was made at 5.37 pm on April 15, 2016. Lalu’s aide, Upendra, received the call and handed over the phone to Lalu, it was reported. Shahabuddin spoke in Bhojpuri and asked Lalu to take stock of the situation.
Lalu is heard telling Shahabuddin about some problem in Mirganj. He responds saying the situation in Siwan was worse. Lalu asks Shahabuddin whether there was no police deployment in Siwan. “No… nothing has been done. Your SP is of no use. A riot can take place place under such circumstances,’’ Shahabuddin is heard telling Lalu.
The jailed leader tells Lalu about stone throwing, and quotes a local MLA, saying that he had learnt about police firing.
In another taped conversation, Shahabuddin is heard talking to a person, who tells him that a Block Development Officer (BDO) was not releasing a seized SUV. The man tells him that he had spoken to Sub-Divisional Officer, who assured him of doing something and had suggested that the SUV driver meet the BDO. “Tell the BDO that it is good to know his limits… We will get the vehicle released but will show the BDO his place,’’ Shahabuddin apparently said.
A police officer said that a conversation can be recorded only with a zonal inspector general’s permission.
Former RJD MP Jagdanand Singh said Shahabuddin, as a leader of his party, and can talk to Lalu. He added that he does not know where Shahabuddin made the call from.
JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi called the release of the purported conversation an attempt to malign the Bihar government. “Everyone knows that (Bihar chief minister) Nitish Kumar had taken tough stand on Shahabuddin. Jail authorities should be asked if the phone tape is a CBI or IB game,” Tyagi said.
BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said that the conversation shows how Lalu has been getting instructions from a murder convict.
“Will Nitish Kumar still react? The Chief Minister had not reacted when an RJD minister went inside Siwan jail to meet Shahabuddin. It is time Kumar showed some moral authority,’’ he said.
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