New Delhi: The CBI on Friday filed a corruption case and carried out raids at the residences of RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, his wife Rabri, and son, Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav, for alleged irregularities in leasing two railway hotels to a private company when he was Minister of Railways.
ANI EXCLUSIVE: CBI FIR copy in Railway hotel tenders case, names Lalu Yadav, wife Rabri,son Tejaswi and others pic.twitter.com/hbLcGiKCuv
— ANI (@ANI_news) July 7, 2017
The political fallout of the case has been that the BJP is visibly overjoyed, while the Congress is treading carefully in reacting to the graft charges against it's Bihar ally. Nitish Kumar of the JD(U), the leading partner in the Bihar grand alliance, has kept a stoic silence.
Scores of sleuths from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) carried out raids at least a dozen locations, including the residences of Lalu Prasad and his family members in Delhi, Gurugram, Patna, Ranchi and Bhubaneswar.
CBI additional director Rakesh Asthana told reporters that Lalu had allegedly granted illegal favours to Sujata Hotels through the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) when he was the railway minister from 2004 to 2009.
Asthana said the private company was favoured and the tender process for the development, maintenance and operation of the hotels in Ranchi and Puri was manipulated in exchange for a three-acre land plot in Patna where a mall is being built. "When Lalu was the railway minister, the tender of BNR Hotels of the railways was given to Sujata Hotels," he said.
"Three acres of land in western Patna was transferred by Delight Marketing Company private limited that is known to the Yadav family," he said, adding that between 2010 and 2014, this land was transferred to another company owned by the Yadav family's Lara Projects at a very low cost.
"Transfer took place at a low price. The land was valued at Rs 32 crore as per the circle rates and the market rate was Rs 94 crore at the time. It was transferred to Lara Projects at nearly Rs 65 lakh," said Asthana.
He said the case was registered on 5 July under sections 420, 120 B of the Indian Penal Code and sections 13 and 13 1B of Prevention of Corruption Act. Also named in the case are former IRCTC managing director PK Goyal and the wife of Lalu's confidante Prem Chand Gupta.
Meanwhile, Lalu put up a brave front and dubbed the CBI raids on his family residences as a political conspiracy by the BJP. He said that the probe agency had no proof against him. "This is a conspiracy against me and my family... Narendra Modi is going towards dictatorship. I am not scared... I have been dealing with the CBI all my life," Lalu Prasad said.
Rebuffing charges that he favoured Sujata Hotels through IRCTC while he was the railway minister, Lalu said that the allocation processes were done in a fair manner through bidding.
Lalu claimed he had improved the condition of the IRCTC, which he said was formed and made autonomous during the tenure of BJP-led NDA government. The RJD leader said he has asked his family to cooperate with the CBI officials.
"This is a political conspiracy of Modi, Amit Shah and RSS against us because we have initiated a political movement against them, and they will soon see a farewell... On 27 August, we are holding rallies in Bihar to tell the people how my family and I are being attacked due to political vendetta," Lalu told the press.
Lalu, who was in Ranchi for a hearing in a CBI court in the fodder scam case, said, "The so-called IRCTC was formed in 1999, and at that time I was not the railway minister or a cabinet minister. In 2002, IRCTC started functioning and in 2003 hotels in Delhi, Howrah, Ranchi and Puri were handed over to IRCTC,"
"In May 2004, I became the minister, but everything was already handed over before that. There was an NDA government and (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee was the prime minister," Lalu Prasad said.
"Many railway hotels were in bad shape so IRCTC in 2006 did open tendering to develop them. Everything, including income and licence fee, was fixed under an agreement for 15 years lease," he said, adding that all the deals were done through an open tender process and that there is not a single accusation against him which can be proved.
He added that the raids were to insult him and to send him to jail. "Show us the paper on the basis of which these raids were conducted. I am absolutely innocent. During my time, railways got an international reputation," Lalu said.
The BJP has, however, denied any role in the CBI action against the RJD chief. Welcoming CBI's move, the saffron party said that several politicians consider themselves big leaders but that does not render them above the law of the land.
BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said that the BJP has no part to play in the unfurling political drama, and whatever Lalu faced was the consequences of his own actions. He said that he would not link Nitish either with the controversy and said that the law will take its own course.
However, BJP state unit chief Sushil Modi said that the BJP has said time and again that Lalu is corrupt and the CBI raids have only vindicated their stand. Sushil also turned up the heat for Nitish, an RJD ally, who had promised a corruption-free government.
"Tejashwi is in Nitishji's cabinet. It is up to him now. How long will he stay silent on his ally's dark deeds," Sushil said.
"It is the right time for Nitish to end his party's alliance with the RJD and should sack Lalu's two sons from his cabinet without delay," Bharatiya Janata Party state president Nityanand Rai told IANS.
Rai said "politics" will change in Bihar after the CBI raids.
The Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar told the media that Nitish should act against Lalu's two sons.
"Our stand has been vindicated, Lalu and his family are corrupt," he said.
For nearly three months, BJP leaders have repeatedly alleged corruption charges against Lalu and his family members. It was alleged that Lalu had accumulated Rs 1,000 crore illegal property.
The JD(U), however, is unusually silent on the matter. Political analysts say that Nitish is unlikely to create too much ruckus on the issue as he enjoys a comfortable position. Although he needs RJD's support for the numbers, he does not have to snap ties to make an elaborate statement.
Lalu has courted controversy in the past too and Nitish has managed to get away with the 'law-will-take-it's-course' stand. The BJP meanwhile, continues to openly flirt with the JD(U), but it will be a call Nitish will have to take when the time comes.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 07, 2017 15:38 PM