Ayush Singh, B.A. LL.B. (H)
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) carried out searches at 12 locations on Friday after registering a corruption case against RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and some of his family members. It was in connection with a fresh case of alleged irregularities in awarding the tender for maintenance of hotels in Ranchi and Puri.
This is not the first time that the RJD leader and his family have been embroiled in a corruption case. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is trying to get rid of Lalu because he can’t compromise with his clean image. The JD(U) has already distanced itself from the ongoing Income Tax Department investigations against Lalu’s family.
The case registered against Lalu on Thursday is of criminal conspiracy (120-B), cheating (420) under IPC and corruption, said Additional Director of CBI, Rakesh Asthana.
He said that between 2004 and 2014, a conspiracy was hatched in pursuance of which BNR hotels of Indian Railways located at Puri and Ranchi were first transferred to the IRCTC and later on for its operations, maintenance and upkeep, it was given on lease to a private firm Sujata Hotel pvt ltd based in Patna.
The allegation levelled is that the tender process was rigged and manipulated and the conditions were tweaked to help the private party. In return, three acres of land in western Patna was given to Delight Marketing, which is known to the family of Lalu, at a very low cost.
The other scams Lalu and his family have been named in are the Benami properties scam and the fodder scam.
The Income Tax department had previously charged Lalu, his wife Rabri Devi, his son and daughters under the Benami Transactions Act in connection with its probe into land deals worth Rs 1,000 crore and tax evasion.
The department served notices of attachment of assets to Lalu’s daughter Misa Bharti and her husband Shailesh Kumar, Rabri and son Tejashwi Prasad.
The department has attached immovable assets such as land, plots and buildings in Delhi and Patna which bear a “deed” value of Rs 9.32 crore but the taxman has estimated their current market value at Rs 170-180 crore.
A total of nine plots in Phulwari Sharif in Patna, where a mall is reported to have been coming up, has also been attached by the tax department. Tax department officials had said Prasad’s kin held some of the properties under their scanner in a “benami” way.
Lalu and his family are also an accused in the fodder scam, which is now a 21-year-old case against the RJD leader.
The fodder scam is regarding large-scale embezzlement of government funds, made by producing fake bills to substantiate payments that were never made. The fraudulent transactions were made in the name of procuring cattle feed over a period of 20 years.
When BJP state unit chief Sushil Modi filed a PIL in the Patna High Court in 1997, demanding a CBI enquiry in the case, Lalu’s involvement was found out.
“A large amount of money was withdrawn from the government’s treasury. In short, it was a loot of government’s money by the government’s officials backed by the political leadership. About Rs 950 crore was looted by government officials in ten years. It was a huge thing for all of us at that point of time,” Asthana said.
Apart from these, Lalu’s name is allegedly linked to scams related to the treasuries of Chaibasa, Doranda in Ranchi involving Rs 139.39 crore, Dumka (Rs 3.31 crore) and Patna. All this comes at a time when differences between Lalu and Nitish were worsening, the last instance being the choice of presidential poll candidates. Tejaswi, who is named in the CBI FIR, is the deputy in Nitish’s cabinet and this will further complicate equations between the two parties. So far, Nitish has distanced himself from allegations against the Yadav family, but repeatedly promised that there would be zero tolerance of corruption.
All eyes are now on Nitish’s next move. The CBI raids certainly tames an assertive ally, but then the Bihar CM also has national ambitions. And the next general elections are not far off.