Revival of Fodder Scam case: Is this the end for Lalu, Bihar alliance?
- The Fodder scam had led to Lalu's resignation as the CM of Bihar
- The SC overturned the Jharkhand HC judgement and has declared a separate trial for Lalu
- Lalu’s alliance with Nitish Kumar is also on a shaky note
- It remains to be seen whether BJP will manage to leverage the situation
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the RJD leader will stand separate trial in all four fodder scam cases and set aside the Jharkhand High Court order which had dropped conspiracy charges against him. The SC also directed the trial court to complete the proceedings against the 68-year-old RJD chief and others within nine months.
To jog our memories, here’s what the Fodder Scam was all about: The Fodder Scam (chara ghotala) was a corruption scandal that involved the embezzlement of about ₹9.4 billion from the government treasury of the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Among those implicated in the theft and arrested were then Chief Minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, as well as former Chief Minister, Jagannath Mishra. The scandal led to the end of Lalu's reign as Chief Minister.
It started in 1996 when Deputy Commissioner Amit Khare raided the offices of the Animal Husbandry Department and seized documents that showed siphoning of funds by non-existent companies in the name of supplying fodder. A case an enquiry were held following which in June 1997, Lalu surrendered before a CBI court and was sent to judicial custody. Wife, Rabri Devi, was also named in the scam but she received bail while her husband remained in jail. A CBI court then acquitted the duo of their charges but since 2007 till now, the case has been pending a conclusion. Interesting to note the timeline of events that while Lalu is battling a fodder scam trial on one hand, his conversation with Shahbuddin is also in the news.
On the political front, the Mahagathbandan between Nitish Kumar and Lalu seemed to have run into trouble again.
The alliance has been rocky from the start. Back in 2014 when BJP came to power in the country, Bihar was one of the few places where the party received a drubbing. It was courtesy the RJD, JDU and Congress alliance. However, Nitish’s choices post the win have alienated the public, especially with favouring Lalu’s kin over more deserving candidates. But Nitish Kumar has been seen singing a different tune off late. Once bitter campaigns were held in Bihar against the BJP but now, Nitish was one of the first to endorse PM Modi's demonetisation policy. Modi in turn, lauded Nitish for his drug de-addiction and alcohol prohibition campaign he had started.
In January, this year, at the Prakash Utsav, while Modi and Nitish Kumar shared the dias, Lalu was seen seated in the audience. It immediately sparked off angry reactions from RJD at being slighted so publicly. Lalu had been quick to quash any rumours of a dispute between their duo.
But now it seems like Nitish may have to rethink his alliance with Lalu, because already he had earned a bad rep for giving away important posts away and undermining the importance of the roles. If Lalu is implicated in the fodder scam then his association with Nitish will also come under limelight.
The question immediately arises whether BJP stands to gain from the weakened mahagathbandhan in Bihar?
When asked the BJP would extend its hand to Nitish Kumar and work for an NDA rule, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi replied in the negative: "Why will the BJP invite Nitish Kumar? The BJP is so strong in Bihar today that if an election takes place in the state today it would fetch more than two-thirds of seats on its own," he said.
Sushil Modi, who has over the past one month levelled serious allegations against Lalu Prasad and his family members for "acquiring benami properties" in the state and outside, said the judgement would weaken the family's sway in the state politics and trigger "a war of supremacy" among its members.
"Lalu's family will meet the fate similar to that of Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav where family members now have daggers drawn against each other," he said.
with PTI inputs