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Nitish-Lalu in a tight spot over absconding rape-accused MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:50 IST

The case

  • RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav has been accused of raping a minor on 6 February
  • His son and some others have been arrested but he is still absconding
  • BJP has accused the Nitish Kumar govt of bringing jungle raj back to Bihar

More in the story

  • The particulars of the case
  • What is the Nitish govt\'s defence?
  • Has any action been taken?

In the midst of unceasing allegations over the return of "jungle raj" in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his principal ally Lalu Prasad are having a tough time fighting a fresh embarrassment. Nawada MLA from Lalu's Rashtriya Janata Dal, Raj Ballabh Yadav, has been accused of raping a minor girl at his official residence on 6 February. Over 3 weeks later, Yadav is still absconding.

The minor lodged an FIR in the case on 9 February, according to which the crime was committed on 6 February. Her neighbour, Sulekha Devi, allegedly took her to the MLA's house on the said date. Sulekha and several of her family members have been arrested for their complicity in the crime. The MLA's son, Akhilesh Yadav, has also been arrested for attempting to destroy evidence, but the man himself continues to be on the run.

Also read - First high-profile abduction after Bihar polls: Is jungle-raj back?

RJD was quick to disown Raj Ballabh, suspending him from the party on 15 February. It, however, is yet to expel him. RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said the party's firm stand was that Raj Ballabh has to face the law and that the party will take the strongest action possible as soon as the prosecution establishes the crime.

BJP on the offensive

The Nitish Kumar government is drawing much flak for the delay in the MLA's arrest. Opposition parties have only intensified their branding of Nitish-Lalu rule as the return of jungle raj in the state. Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Sushil Modi has been relentlessly slamming the government over the police's failure to arrest the main accused.

Modi also accused the state government of protecting the MLA, saying as long as political patronage continues, the CM's review meetings with the police are of no meaning. He identified Raj Ballabh as "the same RJD MLA who was made Minister by Lalu Prasad in 2000, in spite of a rape case pending against him".

The alleged rape of the minor took place on 6 February. There is still no trace of the accused MLA

BJP MP Sanjay Jaiswal also told Catch that the absconding MLA was a local muscleman and a habitual offender. Jaiswal said political pressure on the police against arresting him became clear when the area police superintendent was transferred in the middle of the police's efforts to nab the culprit, on 19 February. He also expressed fears that it was quite possible that the victim will be killed in a few days and Raj Ballabh absolved of all charges.

Interestingly, RJD's district chief had announced on 16 February that the MLA will surrender on 18th, which did not happen.

Govt's defence

The police's failure to arrest him has been somewhat compensated by strong judicial action in the case. A court in Bihar Sharif ordered police to attach his property and seize his assets, worth Rs 10 crore according to his 2015 election affidavit.

It is this action that the ruling party is holding up as an indicator of the government's seriousness in pursuing the case. JD(U) General Secretary KC Tyagi told Catch that the attachment of property was an unprecedented action and showed that the state government was doing all it could to nab the MLA. He said the accused will also lose membership of the legislative assembly in a few days.

Commenting on the action ally RJD should take, Tyagi said Raj Ballabh should definitely be expelled from the party. Why was the party not doing it is a question only RJD can answer, he added. However, observers are not impressed with the response of the government, especially the police.

RJD was quick to disown Raj Ballabh, suspending him from the party on 15 February

Bihar-based senior journalist Gyaneshwar told Catch he believed the MLA was given ample opportunity to escape. To substantiate his claim, Gyaneshwar asks why did the police leak the news to the media soon after the victim identified Raj Ballabh.

He recalled that former RJD MP Shahabuddin, serving a life sentence in a double-murder case, was also arrested only when police moved against him secretly in 2005.

Lalu made Raj Ballabh minister in 2000, despite rape charges against him, says BJP's Sushil Modi

A sitting MLA allegedly committing a crime and then evading police arrest over 3 weeks has made the government suffer serious loss of face. The case has hit the state government hard, coming as it does within months of several other high-profile cases of murder, bank-heist and kidnapping.

The state appears to be in the throes of a serious law and order crisis, which has also forced the Chief Minister to hold several review meetings with top cops of the state. If the MLA is not arrested soon, the CM will have a tough time defending his government's record in tackling crime.

More in Catch - Here's why Lalu-Rabri era is known as jungle-raj in Bihar

Nitish's clock is ticking: has Jungle Raj returned to Bihar?

First published: 1 March 2016, 9:38 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.