NDA Ministers Want Rabri Out
after the filing of the chargesheet, senior Union ministers from Bihar
like Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan conducted a tour of the state.
The NDA ministers, former colleagues of Laloo, have been in the forefront
of the campaign to oust the Rabri Government though there are major differences
between them over who should ultimately replace Rabri as the chief minister.
However, Laloo, who has established a good rapport with Sonia Gandhi,
need have no fear of losing the Congress support. As Bihar Congress chief
and Health Minister Shakil Ahmad says, "No criminal or corruption
charges have been framed against Rabri. There is no threat to her Government."
The Fodder Scam Till Now...
January 1996: Fodder scam first comes to
light. Laloo resists handing over the case to the CBI.
March 1996: The Patna High Court orders
that the case be handed over to the CBI. The Supreme Court upholds
the order and asks the high court to set up a committee of judges
to monitor the investigation.
July 1997: The CBI files chargesheet.
Sends paramilitary forces to arrest Laloo. Rabri Devi anointed chief
July 1997: Laloo surrenders in court.
July-Oct 1997: Laloo spends 90 days in
judicial custody. The CBI also files chargesheets in 36 of the 52
fodder scam-related cases.
March 2000: Rabri Devi re-elected chief
November 2000: The CBI approaches the
high court to transfer all fodder scam-related cases to the new
Jharkhand state. Laloo objects.
May 2001: The high court rejects the CBI
plea and says all 36 cases will be heard in Bihar.
May 2001: The CBI files chargesheet in
the Ranchi court. Non-bailable warrant issued against Laloo.
Shortly after Laloo was chargesheeted, the Jharkhand
chief minister, making the BJP's political intentions clear, declared
that Laloo would be regarded as an ordinary prisoner and no special treatment
would be extended to him. The message that was sought to be sent across
was that unlike his three previous stints in jail when he controlled the
government in Patna from his cell in the city's Beur Jail, cell phone
in hand, Laloo would not have the same luxury in the Jharkhand jail.
The NDA leaders believe that without Laloo around
to guide her, Rabri would mess up sufficiently enough to provoke an exodus
from the RJD. But party General Secretary M. Nematullah rubbishes such
"In the past four years, she has learned
a lot about state craft, deals with the ministers and officials confidently
and has mastered the art of relating to legislators and supporters."
Earlier, however, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh had suggested that a core committee
of ministers and party leaders should be set up to manage the affairs
of the party and the government in case Laloo was sent to a Jharkhand
But conventional wisdom suggests that without
her husband by her side to aid and assist her, Rabri may just not be able
to cope and even a short stint in jail for Laloo may be enough to turn
her days in office into a nightmare. Laloo, who strongly opposed the creation
of Jharkhand, had once declared that Bihar would be divided over his dead
body. Many in Patna and Ranchi are now wryly commenting that it was the
fear of a jail term in a state where he had no control that had made him
a vehement opponent of the proposed state. They may have been right.