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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Why Nitish Kumar Quiet On 'Fodder Scam' Allegations?

By Sunder Yadav / Patna

There is a mad scramble in the anti-Lalu Prasad camp, with  politicians digging in to claim credit for RJD chief's conviction; but Nitish Kumar, Lalu's worst political enemy who demolished him electorally in Bihar, has cryptically maintained a studied silence.

"I cannot comment on a judicial verdict," was all that Bihar Chief Minister said when media reached for his reaction on Lalu's incarceration. He did not even welcome it. Similarly, senior JD-U leader Shivanand Tewari-a Lalu's lieutenant turned Nitish's camp-follower -- too has followed the middle path, claiming Lalu's will not be politically finished after the verdict.
Why are they holding their horses against Lalu? Is this pure statesmanship on their part or the fear of unknown driving their quiet? The complete truth rests in their hearts; but Bihar political circles are abuzz with speculations that Nitish Kumar and Shivanand Tewari may have refused to welcome Lalu's incarceration in fodder scam case because they too are currently under scanner for allegedly receiving kickbacks from scam's kingpin.

On September 20, Jharkhand High Court asked the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the 950 crore Animal husbandry scam, to file an affidavit in the court, explaining why Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his aide Shivanand Tiwary, a Rajya Sabha member, had not been arraigned as accused in the fodder scam.

The court has issued the direction while hearing a petition filed by one Mithilesh Kumar Singh, a private person. Singh has approached the High Court, alleging that the CBI has let Nitish and Shivanand go off the hook despite having "sufficient evidence" against the duo in fodder scam case.

The "evidence" - according to Mithilesh Kumar Singh-is in the form of CBI's reply to his Right to Information query whereby the investigation agency has accepted that they had "evidence" against both Nitish Kumar and Shivanand Tiwary. The agency claimed in its RTI reply that Shyam Bihari Sinha, the kingpin of the fodder scam case, had paid Rs.1.4 crore to Nitish Kumar in 1994 during elections and Rs.5 lakh to Tiwary for his daughter's wedding.

The CBI has admitted in its reply that one Umesh Singh, who was a vigilance employee, had confessed to having paid the money given by Shyam Bihari Sinha to Nitish and Tiwary.

The Jharkhand High Court has maintained that the CBI should include the names of the duo in the list of accused if they have evidence against them for accepting money from the scamsters. The HC has observed that this was also the basic concept of criminal investigation and the CBI should adhere to it.

Mithilesh has also claimed in his PIL that the then  CBI Superintendent of Police Javed Ahmed had also filed an affidavit before Patna High Court, alleging that Nitish was involved in the fodder scam case. The CBI, for reasons best known to them only, has not pursued the issue.

Incidentally, the Jharkhand High Court has taken up Mithilesh Singh's petition following a direction from the Supreme Court. The apex court had asked Jharkhand High Court to look into Mithilesh Singh's petition afresh. Mithilesh had approached the Supreme Court after his earlier appeal in Jharkhand High Court was not entertained.

Now, with back to the wall following Lalu Prasad's conviction, both Rabri Devi and her son Tejaswi Yadav are making noises about the alleged role of Nitish Kumar and Shivanand Tewari in fodder scam.

The fodder scam that dominated political discourse in the later part of the nineties but lost relevance in the later decade is clearly back to Bihar's political centrestage.
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