By Madhulika Gupta
After being sentenced to three and a half years in jail for a fraudulent withdrawal of ?89.27 lakh from the treasury of Deoghar, Rashtriya Janata Dal Supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav is evidently facing another setback. A special CBI court found Lalu and former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra guilty in the third fodder scam case—the fraudulent withdrawal of ?37.6 crore against a sanctioned ?7.10 lakh from the Chaibasa (present-day Jharkhand) treasury.
With another five-year jail term along with a fine of ?5 lakh, things look grim at the end of the former Bihar Chief Minister. Lalu is currently serving his three-and-a-half year jail term in the Birsa Munda Jail in Ranchi. He had already applied for bail on the grounds of attending his sister’s last rites.
The multi-million scam in the animal husbandry department of Bihar seemed like a small case of corruption but snowballed into a ?956 crore scam.
Revisiting the ‘Chaara Ghotala’
Since 1985, there were speculations of something fishy in the Bihar state treasury when the account transcripts started getting delayed from their date of submission to the then Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, T.N. Chaturvedi.
After almost a decade, in 1996, Amit Khare, a deputy commissioner raided the Animal Husbandry department and found the office to be stacked with documents of embezzlement of government funds to companies that never existed. It later came to the knowledge that the vehicle numbers that were stated in records as ‘trucks’ carrying fodder worth thousands and even lakhs actually belonged to ‘scooters’ in far-off regions of the state. The case busted open and started a chain of reactions. These included the case being directed to CBI for a proper investigation by the Patna High Court, Lalu having to resign as the CM and Rabri Devi taking charge of the position.
Lalu Prasad Yadav has been the poster boy of the ‘Chaara Ghotala’, or the fodder scam. It should not be forgotten that Lalu came to power as the CM in 1990; Congress’s Jagannath Mishra ruled the then undivided state before him.
Treasuries in question
Hearing for the first fodder scam case took place in 2013, where both Lalu and Mishra were sentenced to jail for five years and four years respectively. This case pertained to the fraudulent withdrawal of ?37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury, and Lalu was fined a penalty of ?25 lakh for this.
The second case pertained to Deoghar, where ?89.27 lakh was fraudulently withdrawn. Mishra wasn’t sentenced in this case but Lalu was given 3.5 years to serve.
Earlier in the day, Lalu and Mishra got convicted for the scam in the Chaibasa treasury. Both have been sentenced to a five-year jail term and a fine of ?5 lakh each by the special CBI court Judge SS Prasad. The sentencing happened within a few hours of the conviction; in contrast to Lalu’s last sentencing, where the date to announce the quantum of sentence was delayed three times.
Cases pertaining to the Dumka treasury (3.31 crore) and Doranda treasury (139.3 crores) are to be heard after this.
Tejashwi pleads conspiracy
Former Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav came out in support of his father as soon as the hearing ended. He alleged that this string of convictions and sentencing was a conspiracy against RJD and his father, with Nitish Kumar and the BJP being at the other end of it.
“The people of Bihar consider Lalu a hero, they know he is innocent”, Tejashwi was quoted as saying after he expressed that the party and his family are ready to fight the legal battle and exercise their rights as they appeal in the High Court.
The political ramifications of this will be impactful in a couple of months to come as the nation gears for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The confidence within the party is shaking and the opposition is making it a tough day for the party workers. After the grand alliance broke off in July 2017, RJD already is facing a crisis and Lalu’s sentencing adds ironic fodder to the fire.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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