By Arun Srivastava
Already made has been the strong demand on the floor of the Bihar assembly that the Enforcement Directorate [ED] and the Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI] should be asked to seek permission from the respective state government before proceeding against anyone in the state, similar to the legal proviso enacted by the Mamata Banerjee government in her state West Bengal. Now, some senior RJD leaders are also for approaching the Supreme Court for initiating legal action the director of the ED, Sanjay Kumar Mishra, and not against the organisation as such.
It is worth mentioning that Senior Advocate KV Viswanathan, amicus curiae of the Supreme Court in the case challenging the extension of the tenure of Director of ED, Sanjay Mishra, had told the Court that such extension was illegal. Naturally, Mishra’s posting and being further given extension twice, points to some ominous design, RJD says, adding that he has been brought to carry out the instructions of his political masters. However, since the matter is before the Supreme Court, it can be expected that the real facts would finally come to light.
The demand gained momentum when after his return from Delhi, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav dubbed as “rumours” the claim of the ED that proceeds of ill-gotten money amounting to Rs 600 crore were detected during searches on the premises owned by Yadav and his close family members. Tejashwi Yadav came out with this revelation just outside the entry gate of Bihar assembly. Inside the house, senior RJD leader Bhai Virendra made an impassionate speech to prohibit ED’s vindictive action in the state.
Tejashvi also threatened the ED of putting the panchanama (seizure list), prepared and signed by the ED officials after the raid, in the public domain if the ED does not do so. He said that this would invariably cause much consternation to the BJP leaders, but he has been left with no alternative, but to resort to such a step, so as to clarify the situation stemming from blatantly false propaganda by the BJP-ruled Centre and opposition in Bihar. Hurt at the conspiracy hatched out by misguided ED officials to falsely implicate him in the case, Yadav said “ED thenga paya hai”.
Some of the senior RJD leaders hold the opinion that based on the ED statement, a claim should be filed in the court for return of the money, which ED claimed to have seized. At least, it should be made public how much money had been seized and from which person. The nasty trickery being played by the ED, at the behest of the top BJP leaders, has made the RJD leaders to adopt aggressive stance towards the central body. Some have alleged that taking advantage of the legal powers bestowed on it, the ED officials have been misusing their authority to smear the public image of political opponents. Since their intentions are malicious, their actions could well be questioned and must not be allowed to go scot-free.
It was in 2017 that the CBI filed two cases against Lalu, his family members and others. The allegations included: one, Lalu took land in lieu of giving Group D jobs in the Railways, and second, the Railways sold two IRCTC hotels in Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Bhubaneswar (Odisha) to private operators in violation of stipulated provisions. The CBI investigated it first in 2008 and closed it, saying there was “no evidence”. Again, when Mamata Banerjee became Railway minister, the CBI probed these charges but closed the matter again in 2011 after finding “no evidence”. Now, how did the CBI, which had closed the cases twice, re-open them in 2017? It purely smacks of a conspiracy and nothing else.
Tejashvi also mentioned that in 2017, ED had alleged a transaction worth Rs 8,000 crore, including owning of a mall and hundreds of land plots by the Yadav family. It was in obviously in reference to the land-for-hotels ‘scam’ relating to his father Lalu Prasad, while he was the Union railway minister. The ED had also linked Tejashvi to a mall seized in Gurugram, which turned out to be owned by a person close to senior BJP leaders. Tejashvi said: “The BJP government (at the Centre) instead of spreading rumours again, quoting sources, should have asked its spin doctors to first settle the account on the previous operations, before coming up with the new tale of Rs 600 crore”.
Since ED has the exclusive domain to investigate the money laundering cases, it has come to foist fake and false allegations on Yadav linking him to one of the several money laundering cases and implicate him by hook or crook. Already, ED has had to receive serious flak from a court in the case of Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Rout, whom ED was trying to falsely frame as well. Now, ED had claimed on Saturday last that it seized “unaccounted cash” of Rs 1 crore and “detected proceeds of crime worth Rs 600 crore” after it raided RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s family in connection with a money laundering case linked to the railways land-for-jobs ‘scam’.
Tejashvi’s revealed that ED had asked for jewelleries from the female members of the family, keeping all the ornaments on a table, took a snap and presented it as a seizure of huge amount of illegal gold ornaments. He said the combined jewellery of nearly 10 women would certainly be more than 1 kg. Since all the female members, including the wives, are from well-off families, they owned gold jewellery. Tejashwi said that ED stooped low by presenting the entire jewellery set as illegally obtained and as if seized from a crime scene.
Tejashwi said that the search operations was over after about a couple of hours. The ED officials were also offered tea and food. However, as per Tejashwi, once the operation was over, they did not leave. Instead, they told the Yadav family that the officials would leave the premises only after the order comes from the top. Tejashvi alleged that it was a design to tell the people that the search operations had to be carried out for long hours. The BJP government simply intended to send the message that a huge sum of money has been amassed from the alleged scam, which was why the search operation was taking time.
The search and seizure scheme has been part of a major conspiracy to put the opposition on defensive and malign it to such a degree that the people reject them electorally. It is based on the principles of Goebbels’s thesis; an untruth becomes true if it is reiterated a hundred times.
At least two states, Bihar and West Bengal, matter most for the BJP from the electoral perspective. The ED has carried out massive raids in these two states. In Bengal, while it carried out 26 raids, in Bihar, the number of raids was nearly 15. It carried out 7 search operations in UP. The primary reason is electorally, these states are quite sensitive and important. The combined number of Lok Sabha seats in these states is around 162. Any action will invariably affect Jharkhand having 16. If the BJP fails to repeat its 2019 performance, when it virtually swept all the seats barring four or five, Modi cannot dream of returning to power for the third time.
Obviously, Modi has to be ruthless and terrorise the opposition to surrender. This time, Modi and his deputy Amit Shah are planning to cross 400 seats in the Lok Sabha. The BJP leadership has already coined the slogan “Abki bar char sau par (400-plus this time)”, an ambitious jump from the 303 seats of 2019.
It is not that Modi and Shah are not aware of the challenges ahead of them. Actually, this is the realisation that has made them adopt a more aggressive posture. Obstructing the functioning of the Parliament seeking apology from Rahul Gandhi for his remark on democracy is the part of this strategy. For Modi, winning elections is the most important mission to be accomplished at any cost.
Modi’s aggressiveness has nevertheless has been a boon to the opposition. The political parties which till a day before nursed antagonistic attitude towards other, have come on one platform on the issue of protecting democracy. This has happened for the first time in the rule of Modi. This development is evident in the observations made by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar after the ED and CBI raid, which are in stark contrast to the stand he took in 2017, when he had wanted RJ(D) to come clean on charges of corruption. Now, he threw his weight behind Lalu and Tejashvi.
Ironically, in their pursuit to terrorise and humiliate the opposition leaders, Modi and Shah have wilfully forgot the possibility of peoples’ retaliation. It appears that they have taken for granted that people support them. They are nursing wrong notions. They must look to the ground and evaluate the situation in proper perspective. Modi must not be carried away by what Rajnath Singh says; to harden attitude towards opposition.
There is little doubt that Modi’s action will create a new Frankenstein’s monster for him. Since the ruling party members are not allowing the opposition to function and perform their parliamentary role, then the entire opposition rank might be compelled to quit/boycott house. If they resort to this mode of direct action, Modi will be at a loss to explain and justify his action to the people of the country.
Already RJD Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha had warned that people of Bihar will take to the streets upon learning that Yadav’s “pregnant wife was taken ill with high blood pressure” because of the ED raids at her house. The people emphasise that when Lalu was the Union rail minister, at that time Tejashvi was a young lad of 14 years. Instead of being vindictive and conscious of his own image, Modi must look at the writing on the wall. (IPA Service)