New Delhi/Patna, July 7 (IANS) The CBI on Friday carried out raids at the residences of RJD leader Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri and son Tejashwi Yadav, who is Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister, for allegedly receiving a three-acre plot of land as a pay-off in leasing two railway hotels to a private company when he was the Railways Minister.
Lalu Prasad denied the charges and dubbed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids a political conspiracy done at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government.
Scores of CBI sleuths searched at least a dozen locations in Delhi, Gurugram, Patna, Ranchi and Bhubaneswar.
CBI Additional Director Rakesh Asthana said that Lalu Prasad had illegally favoured Sujata Hotels through the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) when he was Railways Minister from 2004 to 2009.
Asthana said the tender for the development, maintenance and operation of BNR Hotels in Ranchi and Puri was “rigged” to favour Sujata Hotels in exchange for 10 plots comprising three-acres in Patna’s Shaguna More area.
The case, he said, was registered on July 5 for “criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal misconduct”.
“Three acres of land in western Patna was transferred by Delight Marketing Company Pvt Ltd that is known to the Yadav family,” he said, adding that between 2010 and 2014 this land was transferred at a very low cost to Lara Projects owned by Lalu Prasad’s family.
“The land was valued at Rs 32 crore as per the circle rates and the market rate was Rs 94 crore at the time. It was transferred to Lara Projects at a mere Rs 65 lakh.”
Lalu Prasad dismissed the allegations saying the railway’s catering service is an autonomous body and “not a single file from it comes to the Railways Minister”.
“I dare anybody to show that there was one file, one approval, which I gave as the Railways Minister. In 2006, some hotels were given to private parties through open tender to the highest bidder.”
He questioned how his son Tejashwi, a minor then, and wife Rabri — a former Chief Minister — who was not holding any office at that time were made the accused.
The RJD leader blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and the RSS for conspiring against him because the government wanted him to surrender before them.
“This is a conspiracy against me and my family. Modi is going towards dictatorship.”
He said the raids were because he had initiated a political movement against the BJP. “On August 27, we are holding rallies in Bihar to tell the people how myself and my family are being attacked due to political vendetta,” Lalu Prasad told the press in Ranchi.
But the government said it had nothing to do with the case.
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said it was a “fashion” nowadays to curse the BJP-led central government for anything and everything “to cover up their own faults”.
“The law is taking its own course. The government or the party (the BJP) has no role in it,” Naidu said in Delhi.
The CBI move triggered protests in Patna where hundreds of supporters of RJD — a major partner in the state’s ruling combine — gathered outside the house of Lalu Prasad, forcing the administration to deploy a large number of security personnel.
Janata Dal-United President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar remained tight lipped about the raids even as he met the state Home Secretary and police chief to discuss a possible law and order problem in the state.
CBI officials said they had found an official communication that indicated Lalu Prasad as the then Railways Minister was keeping track of the tender proceedings and had been instructing the Chairman Railway Board about it between 2004 and 2006.
Also named in the case are former IRCTC Managing Director P.K. Goel and Sarala Gupta, wife of Lalu Prasad’s confidant Prem Chand Gupta.
The state BJP welcomed the move and sought immediate sacking of Lalu Prasad’s two sons — Tejashwi and Health Minister Tej Pratap — from the Nitish Kumar cabinet.