PATNA: Bihar’s ruling alliance experienced tremors on Saturday after a tape of a conversation purportedly between RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and jailed don-turned-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin surfaced, exposing what many say is a criminal government nexus.
The audio tape, which was aired by a newly launched English TV news channel, has Shahabuddin, a former RJD MP and dreaded criminal currently in Delhi’s Tihar jail, speaking with Lalu Yadav from Bhagalpur jail on April 15, 2016, and asking him to remove then Siwan SP, Saurabh Kumar Sah. “Khatam hai bhai aap ka yeh SP. (This SP posted by your government is useless, brother!) Remove them all… They’ll start a riot,” Shahabuddin, a four-term MP from Siwan who has been been convicted in five criminal cases and is undergoing a life term, is heard telling Yadav.
This call, which Shahabuddin allegedly made through a mobile phone from the jail in violation of rules, was during Ram Navami celebrations and heavy police deployment in Siwan, the don’s hometown. After listening to him, Lalu Yadav is heard asking someone near him to bring the Siwan SP on line to talk with him.
The main Opposition BJP immediately lapped up the revelation and demanded that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar initiate action against his ally Lalu Yadav by lodging a criminal case against him and seeking cancellation of his bail in a fodder scam case in which he was convicted in 2013. A delegation of senior BJP leaders led by former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi met Governor Ramnath Kovind and handed him a charter of demands in this regard.
While both Kumar and Lalu Yadav remained tight-lipped throughout the day, JD(U) spokesperson and MLC Neeraj Kumar said despite the tape, whose authenticity he did not dispute, the rule of law was intact in Bihar. “Everyone can see that the SP of Siwan at the time of this phone call still remains the SP of Siwan. The Nitish Kumar-led government did not remove him. The rule of law is of paramount importance for this government,” he said. Kumar sought a report from DGP P K Thakur on the authenticity of the tape and its contents, said sources.
Lalu Yadav, whose RJD is the biggest constituent of the three-party alliance government Kumar leads, was reportedly shaken by the tape’s emergence and did not step out of his residence throughout the day. Congress, the third and smallest constituent of Bihar’s ruling alliance, was ill at ease by the revelations. Congress spokesperson and MLA Ashok Ram said the tape’s authenticity must be verified first.
RJD’s national spokesperson Manoj Jha also echoed the view and tweeted: “Areca nut journalism set by @republic. Channel's reporter took my reaction bt preferred nt 2 air becoz it wud have upset their scheme." Despite the uproar, RJD refused to take action against Shahabuddin, who was nominated by Lalu Yadav as the party’s vice-president last year though he was convicted and in jail at the time.
Annoyed by media questions, former RJD MP Jagadanand Singh said: “Unko nahin nikalenge… (We will not expel him from the party.) This is what I am telling the entire nation and the media." “It is high time Nitish Kumar took action against Lalu Yadav to put an end to this criminal government nexus,” said senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, hinting that the saffron party would use the issue against Bihar’s grand alliance government.