May 21, 2001
Issue


 

COVER
   

Top 10 Colleges
Of India

As admission time approaches, students face the dilemma of making a choice from among the 10,000-odd colleges. INDIA TODAY-Gallup's fifth survey ranks the centres of excellence on key factors. The best in Arts, Science, Commerce, Law, Medicine and Engineering.

 

 
THE NATION
   

Foreign Policy Privatised
Leaked letters in London imply that Brajesh Mishra, principal secretary to the prime minister, trusted the Hindujas more than the Indian High Commission. The brothers even negotiated with Prime Minister Tony Blair on CTBT.

 

 
STATE
   

The Heat Is On
The Raja of Bihar is in trouble again. The CBI has filed yet another chargesheet against him in the multi-crore fodder scam, this time in Jharkhand. A non-bailable arrest warrant issued against him has Laloo in a panic.

 

 
DIPLOMACY
 

Fuzzy Logic
Key nations, including India, are briefed by aides of Bush on the new nuclear doctrine he proposes, but find that there are more questions than answers.

 

 
DEVELOPMENT
 

Consumed By Hunger
Maharashtra has a surfeit of foodgrain. Yet, over 500 infants have died in Nandurbar district since January this year of malnutrition and related complications.

 

 
OTHER STORIES
     
 



 
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STATES: BIHAR

The Heat Is On

With rebels snapping at his feet and yet another CBI chargesheet filed in the fodder scam—this time in Jharkhand that has a hostile BJP Government in power—Laloo is hemmed in like never before

The world's most famous Yadav, Lord Krishna, was born in a prison. That is small consolation for Laloo Prasad Yadav, the beleaguered "Raja of Bihar". Last week, as he returned to Patna after campaigning in West Bengal, Laloo was greeted by the disturbing report that the CBI had filed yet another chargesheet against him in the multi-crore rupee fodder scam case. The CBI Court in Ranchi had even issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.

This particular case relates to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 182 crore over several years from the Doranda treasury in Ranchi by officials of the Animal Husbandry Department, senior bureaucrats and several politicians.

The rebels who plan to upstage the
Laloo-Rabri applecart with NDA support

 

RANJAN YADAV: Laloo's former aide lacks mass base yet poses the biggest threat

 

NAGMANI (left) and DHAMMAVIRYO: Despite having stood by Laloo in the past crises, the two have rebelled against the RJD chief's attempt to perpetuate family rule

Though it was the eighth case filed by the CBI listing Laloo as a "conspirator" in the looting of state treasuries, the former chief minister was clearly panicky this time. After all, the case had been filed in Ranchi, capital of the new Jharkhand state, which has a hostile government led by the BJP's Babulal Marandi. "I am not surprised. This is a part of the bigger conspiracy against me by the BJP and the NDA Government at the Centre, which has been using the CBI as a tool. I will face this case too. I will expose them," thundered Laloo.

As soon as news of the chargesheet and the warrant reached the chief minister's house at Patna's 1 Anne Marg, the iron gates were shut for visitors and mediapersons. Laloo and his wife, Chief Minister Rabri Devi, held hurried consultations with trusted lieutenants and it was decided to call an emergency meeting of the RJD Legislature Party the same evening to chalk out strategies to meet the challenge.

The meeting led to rumours that Laloo and Rabri might prop their eldest daughter, Misa Bharati, as the new chief minister (see box). However, it also threw up a new line of argument to counter the situation: that the filing of the chargesheet in the Jharkhand court amounted to contempt of the Patna High Court, whose full bench had ruled only four days ago that all the 36 fodder scam cases pending before the court should be heard in Bihar.

Laloo's supporters claim the high court had ruled that all cases pertaining to the "larger conspiracy" angle fell within Bihar authorities' jurisdiction. "The CBI has suppressed facts and misled the court while filing the chargesheet. This amounts to contempt of court," his supporters argue. They also think it is an obvious ploy to discredit their leader. "The CBI has no evidence against Laloo but since its Joint Director U.N. Biswas has to serve the political interests of his masters in the NDA Government-which has given him an extension for two years-he has falsely implicated Laloo in the case," alleges RJD spokesperson Shivanand Tiwary.

 

In the past, he was lodged in the Beur Jail in Patna. With wife Rabri running the government, nothing seemed amiss.

He fears that if he is lodged in a Jharkhand jail he will lose grip over the party and the Government.

Jharkhand's BJP Chief Minister Babulal Marandi has said Laloo will be regarded as any other prisoner and will get no special treatment.

NDA leaders believe that if Laloo stays in jail for a long time, it will be easy to lure RJD MLAs and topple the Rabri regime.

His once trusted aides like Ranjan Yadav and Nagmani are working overtime persuading old contacts in the RJD to dump Rabri and join an alternative government.

Laloo has been to jail thrice already in fodder scam-related cases but this time, he looks jittery.

Laloo is no stranger to prison, having been to jail five times-the first time during the Emergency. Of the remaining four stints, three related to the fodder scam cases, staying for as long as 90 days in jail on one occasion. This time, however, there is a clear sense of panic among his loyalists, maybe because, unlike in the past, Laloo might not be able to rule by proxy from within the prison.

Perhaps for the first time in his 11-year rule, Laloo too feels hemmed in, both politically and legally. Trusted friends like Ranjan Prasad Yadav, the Rajya Sabha member and the RJD working president till recently, and Nagmani, the Lok Sabha MP, have walked out of the party to form the splinter RJD (Democratic). They have taken with them fellow MPs Bhante Dhammaviryo, Anwarul Haque and Sukhdeo Paswan, all of whom rebelled against Laloo's attempts to perpetuate family rule. Dissidence has led to cracks in the Cabinet as well, with Shakar Prasad Tekriwal resigning as finance minister.

However, Laloo is trying to draw comfort from the fact that no one from among the 115 MLAs has come out openly in support of Tekriwal or Ranjan Yadav. "We have faced many such crises in the past but the Government has survived. This time too all party legislators, MPs and allies (Congress with 11 MLAs, each of whom is a minister) are solidly behind Laloo and Rabri," claims Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, RJD leader in the Lok Sabha.

The confidence is rooted in the fact that none of the dissidents, not even Ranjan Yadav, has enough mass appeal to mobilise the MLAs against the Laloo-Rabri leadership. Four days before the filing of the chargesheet, Nagmani had boasted that the Rabri Government's days were numbered. In fact, the dissidents were just waiting for Laloo to be arrested and lodged in a Jharkhand jail before beginning their final assault.

Their strategy is simple: to win over at least 39 of the 115 RJD legislators in order to split the party. Subsequently, they hoped, the split would be formalised and Ranjan Yadav would be elected as the leader of the new group. The NDA allies in the state-Samata, with 30 MLAs, BJP (35), Janata Dal (United) (12) and Lok Janshakti (6)-besides the Bahujan Samaj Party (5) and some of the Independents would extend support from outside to the alternative government.

The dissidents hoped that they would easily muster an outside support of more than 100 MLAs and banked on the assumption that the formation of a new government would be attractive enough a proposition for a majority of RJD MLAs to cross over to their camp.

But the master manipulator that he is Laloo has so far managed to stay a step ahead of his opponents, knowing well enough how to break the enemy ranks and spread confusion. The day the dissidents held a meeting in Delhi to set a deadline for the ouster of the Rabri Government, Laloo telephoned some of the potential defectors and warned them of the supposed BJP-NDA game plan.

As word spread in Patna about Laloo's possible arrest, anger among his supporters mounted. Fearing widespread trouble in the wake of his anticipated arrest, the state's Special Branch sounded a red alert and asked all district magistrates and superintendents to take precautionary measures. The Special Branch feared the RJD supporters would attack the CBI offices, gherao or attack its officials, ransack Central government establishments and target all those opposing the Rabri Government.

The anger was not quite misplaced, considering that hardcore Laloo supporters have for years been convinced the CBI has been acting vindictively. Several remarks by senior party leaders alleging that the CBI was trying to harass Laloo to please its political masters, seemed to have added fuel to the fire.


 
 
 
Care Today
     METRO TODAY
 
   

MetroScape

Summer Of 2001
Flippant and elusive, he can best be described by what he is not. Meet
Bryn Adams in an uncharacteristically forthcoming mood.

more...

Looking Glass

Delhi Concert:
"United for Gujarat"

Mumbai Ceramics:
Zareen Mistry

Mumbai Club Music:
Melting Pot

 

 
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