Aditya Sachdeva case: Tainted netas are becoming Nitish's Achilles' Heel
The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar seems to be moving from one controversy to another, giving an otherwise weakened BJP a chance to deflect attention from its own woes.
After RJD leader Shahabuddin's release from jail, the tainted RJD MLA Raj Vallabh Yadav came out on bail. Yadav, who represents the Nawada Assembly constituency, is accused of raping a minor girl. The government was accused of going soft on criminal elements and Raj Vallabh's meeting with RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav didn't help matters.
Just when the Nitish government was emerging out of these episodes, Rocky Yadav was granted bail by the Patna High Court on 20 October.
Rakesh Ranjan Yadav aka Rocky Yadav was arrested in May for allegedly shooting 19-year-old student Aditya Sachdeva in what appears to be a case of road rage.
He is said to have been driving his Range Rover SUV in Gaya, when it was overtaken by Sachdeva and his friends in a Maruti Swift. An enraged Rocky allegedly beat up Sachdeva and shot him to death.
What made matters worse for the government was the fact that Rocky Yadav is the son of JD(U) MLC Manorama Devi. His father Bindi Yadav is a known strongman in the area.
The public pressure forced the police to arrest Rocky as well as his parents. Illegal liquor was also seized from their premises during search operations conducted to nab the accused. An embarrassed Nitish Kumar was left with no option but to expel Manorama Devi from the party. However, she along with her husband, were granted bail by the court in June.
The state government has decided to challenge Rocky's bail in the Supreme Court. Confirming the decision, the Principal Additional Advocate General Lalit Kishore told the media that the Bihar government would file a petition in this regard on 24 October.
However, the politics over the matter hasn't subsided. Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has accused the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of buckling under pressure from Lalu Prasad.
"The government is only playing to the gallery by moving the Supreme Court. We saw the same happening in Raj Vallabh's case. It is clear the government is helpless before Lalu's pressure.
Reacting to the court order, Aditya's father Shyam Sachdeva said, "We are losing faith on the justice system. We urge the government to get the bail of the accused cancelled without delay and ensure strict punishment for him. My son will not return, but strong action would deter criminal elements in the state".
The Nitish Kumar government could not have afforded to be seen acting otherwise, especially since it also challenged the bail orders of Raj Vallabh Yadav and Shahabuddin in the apex court.
However, it may have to incur some political damage.
Besides Manorama Devi's clout, the political influence of the Bindi Yadav in Gaya could come to haunt JD(U). He is a known history-sheeter with considerable money and muscle power. Once purportedly arrested for stealing a bicycle, Bindi Yadav is now the owner of hotels, malls and several petrol pumps.
He was elected unopposed as the chairman of the Gaya District Board in 2001 with the RJD's support. He held that position till 2006. Bindi Yadav has also contested Vidhan Sabha elections from Gaya (Rural) constituency as an independent candidate and from Gurua seat on RJD ticket. The notorious man is known for proximity to both RJD and JD(U) leaders and has some support base among the local Yadav community.
The government had to face protests in Siwan against its decision to oppose Shahabuddin's bail. Even some RJD leaders had joined these demonstrations. Now, it fears a similar backlash in Gaya.
"Bindi Yadav will also try to politicise the government's decision to move the Supreme Court against Rocky Yadav's bail. He might try to send the message that the Chief Minister was deliberately targeting Yadav and Muslim leaders (two communities known to be RJD's vote banks). Bindi Yadav is influential enough to create the ground for such an opposition," says Gaya-based journalist Jitendra Pushp.
"Lalu Prasad is silently endorsing this politics. He did not speak when Nitish Kumar was opposed in Siwan. The RJD Chief also met Raj Vallabh Yadav at his residence for hours while the government was preparing to challenge his bail in the Supreme Court," says sociologist S Narayan.
Santosh Yadav, president of an NGO called 'Bagdor', agrees with Narayan's viewpoint.
"When the government can go to the Supreme Court against Shahabuddin and Raj Vallabh Yadav, questions are being raised as to why it cannot do the same against the murder accused belonging to the Ranvir Sena, who were granted bail by the High Court?" he says.
"Nitish Kumar might be silent on this issue for now. However, it would soon be under pressure to move the Supreme Court to cancel the bail of the Ranvir Sena activists," Santosh Yadav adds.
"Lalu would try to force Nitish to open the cases of massacres committed by Ranvir Sena. It would affect the Upper Caste musclemen. The day this happens, the politics of confrontation between various castes would spread to the alleys of the villages of Bihar," he says.