Millennium Post

Reprieve to Rabri, Tejashwi

A special Delhi court granted bail to former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi, her son Tejashwi Yadav and others in a corruption case in which Lalu Prasad as the Railway Minister (2004-2009) had allegedly facilitated and awarded a Patna-based firm the contract to run two IRCTC hotels in Ranchi and Puri in exchange for a prime land as a bribe. Besides Prasad and his family members, former Union Minister Prem Chand Gupta, his wife Sarla Gupta, Additional Member of the Railway Board B.K. Agarwal, the then managing director of the IRCTC PK Goyal and the then IRCTC director Rakesh Saxena were also named in the charge-sheet. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, who is also an accused in the case and is currently in Ranchi jail serving a sentence in the fodder scam cases, was exempted for the day. However, the court issued a production warrant for him for October 6. The court's decision to grant bail to Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav has come as a big relief to the Lalu Prasad's family and his party RJD. After RJD chief Lalu Prasad was sentenced to jail terms in the fodder scam cases, it's his younger son Tejashwi who has been leading the party's offensive against the Nitish Kumar government in the state and the NDA government at the Centre. In recent byelections, the victory of RJD candidates in two Assembly constituencies -- Araria and Jehanabad -- demonstrates that the party still retains the capacity to fight back. Tejashwi Yadav who is widely seen as Lalu Prasad's political heir has been accused by the CBI in a corruption case last year that triggered his party's split from the grand alliance between JD (U) and RJD. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ended the alliance with RJD in July 2017, a few weeks after the CBI named Tejashwi Yadav in the charge sheet filed in the IRCTC case, which involves three acres of land in Patna where Lalu Prasad's family is allegedly planning to build a mall. He was the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar at that time. The CBI has charged Lalu Yadav with facilitating the contract to a private company to run IRCTC hotels in exchange for the premium plot. According to CBI charge sheet, the land was first transferred to Sarla Gupta, wife of former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta, and finally to Lalu Prasad's wife and son Tejashwi Yadav at a dirt-cheap price.

When the CBI named Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav in its charge sheet in July 2017, Lalu Yadav termed it as part of BJP's vendetta politics and rejected Nitish Kumar's suggestions that Tejashwi Yadav should quit the Cabinet. Kumar had also suggested that Tejashwi should offer a public explanation but he refused, saying that whatever he has to say, he would say in the court. And, in the court on Friday, Tejashwi argued that he was too young and studying at the time when the alleged IRCTC scam took place. He also argued that CBI has so far not made any move to arrest them. The court did not take much time to grant the bails. RJD chief was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail in the first fooder scam case in which he was convicted. Later, he was convicted in three other fodder scam cases taking the total punishment to nearly 20 years in jail. After Lalu Prasad was sentenced and sent to jail, his family including wife Rabri Deve, Son Tejashwi Yadav, and daughter Misa Bharti was found embroiled in different corruption cases. Even though RJD had performed exceedingly well in the last Assembly election by winning 81 seats out of 101 seats it contested, the sentencing of Lalu Prasad in fodder scam cases and assorted court cases and corruption charges against the family members of the RJD chief has left the party in a jittery. The strategic alliance forged between JD (U) and RJD ahead of the Assembly election worked in favour of the alliance and restricted BJP to the third position in the overall seat tally. Though the equations have changed and JD (U) and RJD have parted ways, the analysts believe that RJD still retains its popularity and can give a tough fight to BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. The NDA constituents have informally finalised the seat-sharing deal in Bihar where BJP is expected to contest 20 seats while JD (U) 12 while eight seats will be distributed among the remaining allies which include Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP and Upendra Kushawaha's RLSP. RJD is leading the opposition alliance in Bihar with Congress and some smaller parties in the fold. The reprieve given by the court to Prasad family including Tejashwi will help RJD chalk out a better poll strategy for the Lok Sabha election next year.

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