Srijan scam haunts Nitish Kumar's JD(U) in Bihar as 'unnamed accused' in fresh FIRs put ties with BJP under strain

All was well in Bihar between the JD(U) and the BJP until a few days before the International Yoga Day celebrations on 21 June. Suddenly, around 15 June, JD(U) leaders started giving statements to the press that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar might not join the event along with the BJP leaders like Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in Patna to mark the event. Things started deteriorating between the two NDA partners in Bihar and an all-out war broke out when Nitish, as predicted by his aides, indeed did not turn out for the International Yoga Day event.

Immediately after the Yoga Day event came the JD(U) bombshell that the alliance of JD(U) and BJP might break if the BJP doesn’t offer a good number of Lok Sabha seats to the JD(U) as per its performance in the 2015 assembly elections.

 Srijan scam haunts Nitish Kumars JD(U) in Bihar as unnamed accused in fresh FIRs put ties with BJP under strain

File image of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

So it seemed that the absence of Nitish from the Yoga Day event was to put pressure for the Lok Sabha seats. But there is another event that preceded the International Yoga Day celebrations that is being said to be the real reason for the freezing of relations between the two alliance partners. This event is the filing of four FIRs by the CBI in the Rs 880 crore Srijan scam on 13 June 2018, exactly a week before the International Yoga Day event. And around 15 June the JD(U) leaders started talking about party leaders including the chief minister not joining the Yoga Day event.

So, was it the fresh set of FIRs that infuriated the JD(U)?

Sources in the know say that the JD(U) leadership is not very happy with the way the Srijan case is being handled by the CBI. The CBI has registered the fresh set of FIRs naming certain NGO and bank officials, but the FIRs are also against ‘unnamed accused’ in each of the cases. The mention of the ‘unnamed accused’ is said to be the bone of contention between the two NDA partners.

After the CBI took over the Srijan scam case of Bhagalpur, when Nitish recommended a CBI enquiry under pressure from the Opposition political parties and the media, some of the accused in the case like Prem Kumar (who was the personal assistant of the then district magistrate of Bhagalpur), Rakesh Kumar, Satish Kumar Jha, and Vansidhar Jha got bail from the special CBI court when the CBI ‘failed’ to file the chargesheet against them in the stipulated 90 days period. Many political observers saw this as some kind of soft approach by the CBI as it suited the JD(U) leaders. Allegations of involvement of some high profile JD(U) leaders in the Srijan scam have been doing the rounds ever since the scam broke out, and in fact, an FIR named a local JD(U) leader named Shiv Kumar Mandal (whose father was also arrested for his involvement in the scam) as an accused and was later removed from the JD(U). The local leader's name is said to be only the tip of the iceberg and more high profile names could crop up in the future.

Not only in the Srijan case, Nitish of late is said to have been losing his grip on the functioning of the Bihar government as far as district administrations are concerned. Top sources in the government say that he was almost forced to concede to the appointments of a fresh set of IAS and IPS officers from Haryana and other northern state cadres as new district magistrates and superintendents of police of as many as 22 districts, under pressure from ‘New Delhi’. Of late he has been complaining of undue interference from New Delhi via Union minister Giriraj Singh.

People in the know say that it’s only a matter of time when the big names start tumbling out of the Srijan scam and many leaders are biting their nails. They would have preferred a closure rather than keeping the FIRs open for the ‘unnamed accused’.

There were other ways for the JD(U) leadership to negotiate and bargain the Lok Sabha seats than absenting themselves from the event propagated by the prime minister of the country and being attended by the Union and state Ministers. Certainly, there was a far greater trigger for the extreme move and Srijan FIRs fit the bill.

Updated Date: Jun 28, 2018 20:48:16 IST