Playing victim, crying conspiracy in fodder scam won’t cut it for Lalu and his allies
Politicians are always ready with a conspiracy theory or two to defend themselves against charges of corruption but Rashtriya Janata Oal (RJO) chief and former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad took this hackneyed tune to a new level on Saturday when justice was finally done in the over two-decade old fodder scam in which he was among the 16 (of the 22 accused) held guilty by the Ranchi trial court. Even as he was being whisked away to prison, he, or whoever tweets on his behalf took to Twitter to not only claim that the case smacked of “casteism, racism, and bias” but went to on put himself in the category of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther and BR Ambedkar claiming that had they failed in their efforts history would have treated them as villains” too. The political strategy of his “secular” allies including the Congress seems to be to see how Lalu playing the victim card pans out as he harps on “those from lower hierarchy” of society being allegedly targeted by the Indian judicial-political establishment; his aides were Quick to point out that another former Jagannath Mishra was among the 6 accused who were acquitted.
This is a highly dangerous and potentially incendiary narrative from a man who has held Constitutional posts at the State-level and at the Centre. It will also not work as the people are not stupid. Lalu was held guilty in accordance with the law of the land after following due process and he, as someone who is very much a part of the political elite of the country, had access to best legal talent to defend him. Lalu is perhaps gambling on the fad mat bigger political sharks have survived far greater corruption charges than his involvement in the defalcation of funds to the tune of Rs 85 lakh from the Oeogarh Treasury in the early 1990’s which is the case in which he was convicted on Saturday; after a”, A Raja has just been sprung by another trial court in a case of much bigger loot relating to the 2G Spectrum scam. But it must be remembered that the overall loot in the fodder scam was approximately Rs 900 crore, a massive sum for the time, and involved fraudulent withdrawals from more than half-a-dozen State treasuries in erstwhile unified Bihar. For those who have pursued the fodder scam cases since 1996 and closely fol- lowed its twist and turns, Lalu’s complicity was never suspect. He doled out a series of favours to the officials involved in the fodder racket gave them extensions of service, overlooked media reports on excess withdrawals from the State treasury, did not act on the issue even when repeatedly raised in the Bihar Assembly and even traveled on air tickets purchased by the masterminds of the scam apart from pocketing a portion of the loot. The CBI charged Lalu Prasad in five different cases. Lalu’s plea that a” the cases should be clubbed together since they are based on similar charges and evidences was upheld by Jharkhand High Court. This led to dropping of proceedings against him in the present case but the Supreme Court Quashed the High Courts relief to Lalu setting the stage for his conviction on Saturday in which he was charged under section 120 B of the IPC, dealing with conspiracy. A common intent among the accused is a prerequisite to prove complicity. He has been held guilty as charged. Justice has been upheld.