The Supreme Court’s order to move up the verdict in the fodder scam cases wherein the RJD chief Lalu Prasad is implicated is a welcome development. It seems the politician and former Bihar chef minister has been dealt a big blow with the judge in Ranchi who is handling Yadav’s case being told to quicken the pace of verdict delivery and not delay the process unnecessarily. Last month, the RJD chief had appealed in a court to transfer the cases pending against him to another judge citing the former judge’s relation with the ruling regime in the state. Yadav had said that a senior minister in the current cabinet of Nitish Kumar was related to the judicial head of the court, thus making his own case vulnerable to the prejudices held by the judge owing to his links with the ruling regime. However, the apex court has now directed the said judge, Pravas Kumar Singh, to decide whether Yahav is guilty of embezzling Rs 35 crore from the government exchequer during his earlier stint as the chief minister of Bihar. The case, which is part of the fodder scam, one of the earliest and biggest corruption scandals (worth over Rs 900 crores in total) to hit the national headlines, has been doing the rounds of the court for 15 years now.
The fodder scam is synonymous with the rotting core of the Indian political machinery and a verdict on Lalu Yadav is likely to both inflame and soothe passions of several involved in or observing the scam since its inception in the 1990s. The scandal involved huge amounts of money laundering from the government exchequer and siphoning off crores for ficticious medicines and fodder for cattle. Yadav’s name has been linked with five cases, and he is an accused in all of them. Yadav’s earlier plea had managed to stay the verdict that was supposed to come out on 15 July last month and it looked that in the pretext of getting the case transferred from one judge to another, Lalu Yadav was simply buying time and trying to postpone the verdict until after the general elections due next year. Yadav, who was named in the cases in 1997, along with 40 others, tried to play a risky gamble, but evidently his strategy didn’t pay off.