Alleged land-for-jobs scam: CBI conducts raids as Bihar govt faces floor test

Bihar’s ruling alliance cried foul over the raids and linked them to change in government in Bihar and the BJP’s loss of power

Alleged land-for-jobs scam: CBI conducts raids as Bihar govt faces floor test

Supporters of RJD protest against the raids. (PTI)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday carried out searches at 25 locations in connection with a case filed on May 18 against Bihar’s ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, his family members, and 12 others for allegedly providing jobs in return of land in 2008-09 when he was the railway minister.

The raids were conducted as Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was due to face a trust vote in the state assembly days after parting ways with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and forming the government in alliance with RJD, Congress, and the Left parties.

RJD is the single largest party in the state assembly and the biggest constituent of the seven-party ruling alliance, which cried foul over the raids and linked them to change in government in Bihar and the BJP’s loss of power.

“I do not wish to comment on the merits and demerits of the case. But the timing of the raids is a clear indication that the investigating agencies are trying to help the BJP,” said Upendra Kushwaha, a leader of Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) or JD (U).

Former chief minister Rabri Devi, the wife of the RJD chief and a co-accused in the case whose residence was earlier raided, said the people were watching and understood what is behind these raids.

Residences of RJD lawmakers Sunil Singh, Ashfaq Karim, and Faiyaz Ahmed as well as Subodh Rai, a former member of the state legislative council, were among the premises being raided.

Singh said the raids were clearly intimidatory. “Why else is the raid being conducted today? We cannot even see the local police, who normally accompany CBI officials during raids,” said Singh.

Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation lawmaker Sandeep Saurav said the raids clearly show the BJP has abandoned constitutional propriety. “No raid takes place at any leader of the party [BJP]…”

BJP leader Pramod Kumar accused RJD leaders of amassing wealth and said that is why they were facing raids. “Nitish Kumar not only betrayed the mandate given to [the BJP-led] NDA [National Democratic Alliance] for ruling Bihar but also tied up with the corrupt. We are not worried about allegations of a witch-hunt,” he said as the ruling alliance cited a pattern in the raids targeting non-BJP parties to bring down their governments.

An under-construction mall in Gurugram was among the places being raided. Searches were also being carried out in Delhi, Patna, Madhubani, Katihar, etc.

The CBI registered a preliminary inquiry in September 2021 before booking the RJD chief, his wife Rabri Devi, their daughters Misa Bharti and Hema Yadav apart from 12 others for their alleged role in the jobs scam. The jobs were allegedly provided within three days of applying in “undue haste” and later regularised “in lieu thereof the individuals themselves or their family members transferred their land”, the CBI has alleged.

The appointments were allegedly made without any advertisement or public notice on the basis of forged documents.

The land transfers were allegedly made through three sale deeds in the names of Devi and Bharti and two gift deeds in the name of Hema Yadav, the agency alleged. The CBI claimed the RJD chief’s family also acquired land measuring about 1.05 lakh square feet in Patna by making payments in cash.

“The current value of the above said seven parcels of land, including the land acquired through gift deeds, as per the existing circle rate is about ₹4.39 crore… Enquiry has revealed that the parcel of land, which was directly purchased by the family members of Lalu Prasad from the sellers, was purchased at lower rates than the prevailing circle rates,” CBI said in its First Information Report.

(With inputs from PTI)

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