More fodder for thought

Railway Minister Lalu Yadav's legal troubles are translating into trouble for the UPA coalition government

What is India News Service
26 April  2005

sterday we wrote about Lalu’s new legal travails, and how he is diverting all attention from his misdeeds by posturing as the secular answer to the BJP’s Hindutva politics.

The news today is that his trouble has translated into trouble for the UPA government at the Centre. Being one of the union cabinet’s most visible ministers, his court appearances in cases of criminal misappropriation of funds will now mean a lot of negative publicity for the ruling dispensation.

On Monday, within hours of Lalu being chargesheeted, the issue rocked Parliament as the BJP-led Opposition vociferously demanded that he be dismissed from the cabinet, forcing adjournments of both the Houses. While proceedings in the Lok Sabha were stalled repeatedly, the Rajya Sabha was interrupted thrice before being finally adjourned for the day.
The government is saying the chargesheet is no conviction and hence the railway minister will stay on. “Just because charges have been framed against him, there is no justification for his dismissal,” Law Minister Bhardwaj told reporters in the national capital.

“When somebody becomes an MP, he is qualified to become a minister. A minister can be disqualified only when he incurs some disqualification,” Bhardwaj said, adding: “Just because charges are framed, one does not become eligible for disqualification. Disqualification is post conviction.”

Lalu has found allies in the Left. Criticising the opposition for disrupting Parliament "time and again", the CPI-M said on Monday that this had prevented important statements of the day from being read out by the home minister and the railway minister on the Sabarmati train accident, and the attack on Lalu in Vadodara.

CPI-M leader Nilotpal Basu said although his party did not hold any brief for anybody, the judicial process should be allowed to reach its logical conclusion. 

The special CBI court of Uma Shankar Prasad Sinha in Ranchi on Monday framed charges against 70 accused, including Lalu and former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra, in a fodder scam case.

Meanwhile, in Patna, Bihar Chief Secretary K A H Subramaniam on Monday claimed that the vigilance inquiry “he ordered” would “deal with the diversion of funds from one account to another made by former Patna DM Gautam Goswami.”

That has been another sidelight to the Lalu drama. In a scandal involving the siphoning off of funds meant for flood relief, a high profile district magistrate is now under cloud for the disappearance of flood relief funds. The flood scam was exposed by The Indian Express on Sunday. Some Rs 17 crore has gone missing in this case.

Vigilance DG A R Sinha said he has not received any orders for inquiry though Subramaniam said he ordered a vigilance inquiry one month ago. Clearly, something is missing from the picture, and everything seems to confirm the disillusioned public view that it is all dirty politics.

After avoiding the media for two days, Subramaniam met reporters at 5 pm. But he wanted only to talk about the diversion of funds and not the scam of siphoning off Rs 17 crore flood relief funds. Diversion of funds from one account to another is a common practice in the government in times of emergency and hardly a matter of inquiry, say IAS officers. “When the allotments come, we reinstate the funds,” said a district magistrate.

While there may be arguments for and against Lalu in this particular case, let us not forget that his party has been voted out of power in the state he
ruled, or misruled, for a record 15 years.

He is now managing to pull on politically only because the UPA coalition government in Delhi is still at his mercy. The end may have come for
this leader who clowned his way into the people’s hearts, and then betrayed them consistently while the rest of India marched on.

1. For Bihar Chief Secretary, missing Rs 17 cr is 'a side issue', The New Indian Express

2. CBI charges Laloo in fodder scam, Deccan Herald

3. Opposition has double standards: Left, Financial Express

4. India’s ruling alliance heading for trouble, Asian Tribune

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