New Delhi: Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad was on Saturday convicted in a second fodder scam case, extending his isolation from electoral politics and dealing a setback to the anti-NDA alliance in Bihar.
Special CBI court judge Shivpal Singh held Lalu Prasad, a former Bihar chief minister, and 15 others guilty of embezzling Rs89.27 lakh from Deoghar Treasury between 1991 and 1994. His predecessor Jagannath Mishra, who was also among the accused, was acquitted, as were five other accused.
Lalu Prasad’s quantum of punishment will be announced on 3 January. He has now been taken to the Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi.
“Truth can be made to appear as a lie, as ambiguous or a half lie by concerted onslaught of bias driven propaganda. But blurred layer of bias and hatred will still be removed, come what may! In (the) end truth will win," Prasad tweeted soon after the fodder scam verdict was announced/
The RJD said it will move the high court over the verdict. “The legal fight will continue," Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told reporters in Ranchi. “We will move the high court. There is no other alternative," he said, adding that beside fighting it legally, the party would go to the people and fight it politically too. (read more)
The Rs900 crore fodder scam dates back two decades when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed a chargesheet in the corruption scandal against 38 persons on 27 October 1997. Eleven of them have since died and three turned approvers while two other accused confessed and were convicted in 2006-07, a CBI official said.
In 2013, a special CBI court sentenced Lalu Prasad to five years in prison for fraudulently withdrawing Rs37.8 crore from the Bihar government treasury for fictitious medicines and fodder for cattle over a period of 20 years. Prasad was barred from contesting elections and lost his Lok Sabha seat. He spent two months in jail before he got bail from the Supreme Court as he challenged his conviction. The court decision is awaited.
Former Bihar CM Mishra and Janata Dal (United) leader Jagdish Sharma were also convicted in the first fodder case and were awarded four years imprisonment each.
The CBI in New Delhi did not immediately offer any comment on the fodder scam verdict but said it “would wait till the quantum of punishment is announced in the case".
Prasad is embroiled in other corruption cases as well. He, his wife and former Bihar CM Rabri Devi and MLA son Tejaswi Yadav are facing CBI probe for “irregularities in the award of a tender for development, maintenance and operation of hotels at Ranchi and Puri to a private company in 2006, during the time when Lalu Prasad was the Railway minister".
Soon after the fodder scam verdict was announced, the Congress in New Delhi reached out to the RJD and said that the legal matters had to be kept separate from alliances. “Lalu Prasad’s legal fight has been going on since 1996 and this began when BJP filed PIL against him. Yadav and his lawyers are well prepared to fight this out," senior Congress leader Manish Tewari told reporters in New Delhi.
“This case is going on since 1993-94 and Congress has been with the RJD as part of various alliances...legal matters and political alliances are separate issues," he added.
The RJD, a key political player in Bihar, was founded by Prasad and its electoral fortunes are linked closely with the corruption charges against him. The verdict, then, deals a further blow to Congress and RJD in Bihar, already weakened by Nitish Kumar’s switch-over to the NDA.
PTI contributed to the story.