Lalu Yadav gets 3.5 years in jail: Son Tejashwi confident of bail; Congress says alliance will stay strong

A special CBI court in Ranchi sentenced Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav to three and a half years in prison in connection with a fodder scam case relating to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from the Deoghar treasury 21 years ago.

Judge Shiv Pal Singh also imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on Lalu, two weeks after convicting the RJD chief in two cases. Lalu was fined Rs 5 lakh for each case, failing which he would serve another six months in jail, a CBI counsel said.

Soon after the sentencing, Lalu tweeted that he would happily die fixing himself than follow BJP's rule of "follow us or we will fix you." He also shared a letter with his followers, asking them to not be disappointed with the court's judgment.

Lalu's sons Tejashwi and Tej Pratap exuded confidence in the judiciary and said that they will file an application for bail. None of the convicts in the second fodder scam case can apply for bail in Ranchi court. They will have to move high court to do so.

Addressing a press conference in Patna, Tejashwi said the party would go to the people after makarsankranti to make them aware of the "conspiracy" hatched by Nitish Kumar and the BJP against the RJD chief.

"Lalu is paying the price for his uncompromising stance against the BJP. Had he compromised, his detractors would have been comparing him to Raja Harishchandra," the former deputy chief minister of Bihar said.

He dismissed suggestions the party may disintegrate with its top leader being behind the bars. "The more we are harassed, the stronger will be the public support in our favour. Lalu resides in the people's hearts".

"He is in jail, yet everybody is being talking about him. The only reason is that the people of Bihar are with us and this scares our opponents."

He also took potshots at the Bihar's ruling JD(U)-BJP combine, saying, "Let the double engine do something for the betterment of Bihar. They should set their own house in order instead of wasting their energy on the future of RJD."

RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said that Lalu was being "framed" and that there will be an election where people will fight on behalf of us. "We'll talk in 2019," he told CNN-News18.

Jha said that post the sentencing, party workers have released that their "responsibilities have increased". "We attribute a lot to physical presence. Lalu will just be physically absent. It is (RJD follows) ruling through an ideology.People like ordinary workers, like me, know suddenly our responsibilities have increased," he said.

Claiming that the RJD will replace the Nitish Kumar government in 2020, RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari was quoted by CNN-News18 as saying the party was "disappointed" with the judgment.

 Lalu Yadav gets 3.5 years in jail: Son Tejashwi confident of bail; Congress says alliance will stay strong

Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav and senior RJD leader Rabri Devi at a press conference. PTI

"We were expecting the minimum punishment would be that of a year. By giving a jail term of 3.5 years, he cannot be given bail," he said.

Tiwari denied that there was a leadership crisis in the party after Lalu's conviction. "We have Leader of Opposition Tejashwi and we're all there to support him," he said. The JD(U), a one-time alliance partner of the RJD in Bihar, welcomed the quantum of punishment. JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi said a new political chapter has begun with the court's decision and it means politicians will be afraid of committing any such wrongdoing.

"It will now be difficult to keep the RJD together and people in politics will be fearful," he said, when asked about the significance of the court's verdict.

"This is the end of a chapter that started with Laluji's leadership, where there was politics of corruption, nepotism and non-governance," Tyagi told reporters.

BJP leader and deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, accused Lalu of having come to power "in the name of the poor", and later betraying their trust by "looting public money". "The judgment is a lesson for all those who try to justify their criminal acts by talking about the backwards, Dalits and minorities," Modi added.

BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said the verdict shows the law is equal for all. "The court has done its job, and this is a message that if anyone robs the country of its wealth, however important, then the law is equal for all. This is justice for the people of Bihar because it was their money that was looted," Hussain told reporters.

Rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, who has supported Lalu in the past, said there is "no sense" in hearing what the other parties were saying about the situation in RJD. He also said that the RJD would rise to occasion.

NCP leader Tariq Anwar said that Lalu should apply for bail. "They only have one option to approach the high court. We expected that he would get less than three years of jail term so he could get bail, keeping in mind his health condition.

Meanwhile, Congress sought to distance itself from the court's decision. RPN Singh confirmed that the party was still in alliance with RJD since the bond was not related to "particular individuals".

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Jan 06, 2018 22:43:46 IST