So Why Is the CBI After Tejashwi Yadav Now?

Several questions surround CBI's specific targeting of the Bihar deputy CM. The timing of the move is also hard to ignore.

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Patna: The Central Bureau of Investigation has petitioned its special court at Delhi to cancel the bail it gave four years ago to Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav in a case related to the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation.

The court had granted bail to Tejashwi, his father Lalu Prasad Yadav and his mother Rabri Devi in the case of allegedly selling off two IRCTC hotels, one in Odisha and another in Jharkhand, to private operators in an allegedly unlawful manner during the time when the Rashtriya Janata Dal president, Lalu, was the minister for railways between 2004 and 2009.

CBI had raided Lalu-Rabri’s Patna home on July 7, 2017, in this connection when Nitish Kumar was the chief minister of the Mahagathbandhan government comprising the Janata Dal (United), the RJD and the Congress.

When he was implicated by the investigating agency in the corruption case, Tejashwi was the deputy CM in the Nitish-led government.

The CBI’s case against Tejashwi functioned as the raison d’être for Nitish to ditch the grand alliance and return to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s fold. Nitish – conscious of his image as an anti-corruption crusader – had purportedly asked Tejashwi to explain the charges that the CBI had lodged against him before switching over to BJP.

Also read: Explainer: The Many Corruption Charges Against Lalu Prasad Yadav and His Family

The special court granted bail to Tejashwi, Lalu and Rabri in the case in 2018 – within a year after the CBI had filed a charge-sheet. Nothing was heard about this case for five years after Nitish became the chief minister of the JD(U)-BJP alliance government in July 2017. Last month, Nitish dumped BJP last month and returned to the earlier alliance.

In its petition to the court, CBI has alleged that Tejashwi was ‘intimidating’ CBI officials and was ‘influencing’ investigation in the case. The investigating agency has cited a press conference by Tejashwi in which the latter has allegedly labelled the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax as “extension offices” of the BJP, selectively targeting the right wing party’s rivals.

The court has issued notice to Tejashwi asking the latter to reply to the charges.

The RJD’s national vice president Shivanand Tiwary in a statement said, “The CBI was sleeping over the case for five long years – while the JD(U)-BJP government was in office. The CBI has got into action now that the BJP has lost its sleep in the wake of Nitish joining hands with Tejashwi. It’s obvious that the CBI is targeting Tejashwi to serve BJP’s interests.”

In the 2020 assembly election, Tejashwi gave a spirited fight to BJP despite his father Lalu being in jai at the time. RJD emerged as the single largest party despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing as many as 42 election meetings in Bihar and attacking Tejashwi directly in many of his speeches.

Also read: Tejashwi Yadav, the Leader, Has Arrived

With Nitish Kumar, too, gone from its camp, BJP has a tall climb ahead of the Lok Sabha election in 2024.

Many say BJP’s ‘Hindu Rashtra’ concept has little appeal in Bihar, and that the party has consistently failed to convince the Extremely Backward Class (EBC) and Other Backward Class (OBC) vote bases the way it has done in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Moreover what Shivanand has said about the CBI has been echoed by almost all non-BJP parties – be it Congress leader Rahul Gandhi or Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal or Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

“We have every reason to believe that the BJP had used the CBI against Tejaswhi in 2017 to break the Mahagathbandhan. It’s evident from the fact that the CBI has failed to procure any evidence to support its charge on Tejashwi in five years,” JD(U) national president Rajeev Ranjan (Lallan) Singh recently told a press conference at Patna.

Lalu Prasad Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav. Credit: PTI/Files

Lalu Prasad Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav. Photo: PTI/Files

‘Most corrupt’

AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, meanwhile, has turned the heat on the BJP, describing it as the “most corrupt party in 75 years of Independence ”.

Close on the heels of the CBI raiding the Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s establishments while probing “irregularities’’ in the scrapped liquor excise policy, the Anti Corruption of Branch (ACB) of Delhi police has arrested the AAP’s Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan for irregularities in recruitment to the Waqf Board’s.

In the same way the RJD has linked CBI’s action in Bihar with the setback to the BJP after Nitish joined the Mahagathbandhan, Kejriwal has linked investigating agencies’ heightened action against the AAP MLAs to AAP’s fight against BJP in the assembly poll-bound Gujarat.

Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia have also accused the BJP of offering money to AAP MLAs in various states to bring down the AAP governments in Delhi and Punjab.

Also read: On Day of Bihar Floor Test, CBI Raids RJD Leaders’ Residences

The JD(U) appears to be walking the same line and has heaped corruption charges on the BJP’s newly appointed in-charge of Bihar affairs, Binod Taware.

The party’s spokespersons, Anjum Ara and Arvind Nishad called a press conference recently at Patna to specifically allege that Taware had allotted a contract for fire extinguishers worth Rs 191 crore for schools in Maharashtra to his cronies in 2015 when he was Maharastra education minister.

Besides, he was involved in several other cases of financial scandals, the JD(U) spokespersons alleged. “How can the BJP accuse the Bihar leaders of indulging in corruption when it is full of Taware-like leaders who are themselves neck-deep in corruption,” Anjum Ara asked.

‘Inexplicable’ charge

Born on November 9, 1989, Tejashwi is the youngest son of Lalu Prasad Yadav. He was barely 14 years old when Lalu became railway minister. “It is inexplicable how the CBI made Tejashwi an accused in the case involving Lalu as a Union minister,” said a senior IPS officer of Bihar, adding, “It’s more ludicrous to see the CBI instituting a case against Lalu, Tejaswi and Rabri in 2017, eight years after Lalu had quit as the railway minister in 2009”.

Some BJP leaders had complained about alleged ‘irregularities’ in IRCTC functionings by Lalu in 2008-09. CBI investigated these and closed the case in 2011 after finding the allegations false. It is unclear how the CBI resumed investigation in the same case in 2017.

Senior police officers at Patna who spoke to this writer said that another point leapt out as questionable in CBI’s latest actions against Tejashwi. “The CBI has said in the charge-sheet that Tejashwi and Rabri were beneficiaries of the dividends that Lalu got for selling off the two IRCTC hotels. But why did they leave out Misa Bharti, Tejpratap Yadav and other members of Lalu’s family?” one of them asked.

Could Tejashwi’s role as Lalu’s successor be responsible?

Nalin Verma is a senior journalist, author and professor of journalism and mass communication at Invertis University, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh.