Get tough on Laloo Yadav, Naidu tells Gujral
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The fallout of the Laloo Prasad Yadav imbroglio impacted on the Inder Kumar Gujral-led United Front government in New Delhi late Tuesday night, with senior United Front leader Chandrababu Naidu warning the Prime Minister that any ambiguity on the issue could affect the continued survival of the central government.
A senior Janata Dal member of Parliament told Rediff On The NeT that almost immediately after Bihar Governor A R Kidwai sanctioned the prosecution of JD president and Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav in the multi-million fodder scam, Naidu and senior Left leaders told Gujral that he could no longer afford to remain aloof on the question of Laloo Yadav hanging on to his chief ministership.
Naidu is understood to have pointed out to Gujral that Laloo Yadav's stature as a mass leader could not be allowed to overshadow his alleged involvement in the fodder scam, and that the UF leadership had to stop vacillating on the subject and take hard decisions at the earliest.
Jail raid disconnects hi-tech fodder scam accused
Surprise raids carried out by the district adminstration in Patna on Wednesday unearthed mobile telephones, large amounts of cash and other materials from the cells of the three legislators accused of complicity in the fodder scam.
For the three legislators - R K Rana of the Janata Dal, Jagdish Sharma of the Congress and Dhrub Bhagat of the Bharatiya Janata Party - it was apparently business as usual within the confines of their cells, till the raiding party short-circuited them by seizing their means of communications and also confiscating their stash of cash.
Interestingly, an earlier raid had recovered several incriminating documents and contraband materials from the cells of the selfsame legislators. Which, in turn, raises an interesting question - how, and through what medium, did the legislators acquire the cell phones and the funds found in their cells during this second raid?
Administration officials said it was too early to say whether jail officials had colluded with the three legislators and helped them smuggle in the contraband items, but that investigations were on in a bid to answer the question.
Simultaneously, Left leaders led by Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet warned Gujral that Laloo Yadav's continuance in office as chief minister was causing immense harm to the UF image, and that it was up to Gujral himself to decide whether he wanted to continue his policy of non-alignment, risking the fallout, or to ask the embattled Bihar leader to quit.
The UF leadership is scheduled to meet in Delhi on Wednesday to discuss the situation arising out of Kidwai's act in sanctioning prosecution of the Bihar CM. However, it is learnt that Naidu and other senior leaders increasingly feel there is no longer any point in procrastinating, and that the time for taking a decision is now.
Naidu, in fact, reportedly pointed out to Gujral that Laloo Yadav's constantly seeking legal aid is creating the impression that the Bihar leader is stalling for time, thus turning public opinion not only against Laloo Yadav but also against the 13-party ruling combine at the Centre.
Meanwhile, Congress president Sitaram Kesri has not reacted to the alleged involvement of senior Congress leader and former Bihar chief minister Dr Jagannath Mishra in the fodder scam.
Congress spokesman V N Gadgil made a vague statement, to the effect that justice would be done and all who were found guilty of involvement in the Rs 95 million fodder scam will be punished as per the provisions of the law. However, neither Gadgil nor any other senior leader has specifically addressed the question of Mishra's alleged involvement.
The silence in the Kesri camp assumes ominous overtones, given that Mishra has long been considered an adherent of the Congress president's arch rival and former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao.