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OPINION | ED IN ACTION: OPPOSITION BLOC IN TATTERS


Image Source : INDIA TV The opposition INDIA bloc is now floundering after Nitish Kumar’s exit.

The Enforcement Directorate is in the thick of action in several states, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Maharashtra. On Monday, ED staff waited the whole day for Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren after he mysteriously “disappeared”. He resurfaced on Tuesday morning in Ranchi to attend a meeting of his MLAs at his official residence. The meeting was attended by his wife Kalpana Soren and brother Basant Soren amid speculations that there could be a change of leadership in the state. The chief minister’s office in an email to ED on Monday communicated that Hemant Soren could be questioned on Wednesday. There are speculations that Soren could be arrested in land purchase and money laundering scams and this could trigger a change of leadership. There was also action in Patna, where RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav was questioned at the ED office for nearly 10 hours on Monday, and his son Tejashwi Yadav was also questioned on Tuesday in the land-for-jobs scam.

In Delhi, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was questioned by ED in the Manesar land deal case, while in Mumbai, Shiv Sena (UBT) MLA and former minister Ravindra Waikar was questioned in a land scam. In Punjab, ED has summoned former BJP MLA Arvind Khanna in a money laundering case. Hemant Soren’s disappearance hogged news headlines because he had come in a chartered plane to Delhi and was supposed to return to Ranchi by the same aircraft on Monday. But the chief minister suddenly “disappeared”. Soren’s party JMM alleged that ED is questioning their leader over land parcels owned by government, which cannot be sold. ED also wants to question about a property owned by Kalpana Soren, but the party says details of this property are publicly available. In Patna, RJD chief Lalu Yadav’s daughter Misa Bharati alleged that ED action was “part of a BJP conspiracy to prevent opposition leaders from campaigning in election”. Lalu’s daughter Rohini Acharya warned that if her father’s health deteriorated, ED would be held responsible.

In Jharkhand, Hemant Soren fears he can be arrested anytime and he may not get bail soon. Fearing that his government may collapse, he went underground and convened a meeting of his MLAs in Ranchi on Tuesday.  Already the Lokayukta has sought details about 82 properties belonging to Hemant Soren. The chief minister has been given 15 days’ time to provide all details. Soren cannot prolong the issue by seeking more time, and he may have to go to jail if he fails to come forward with authentic details. Soren should learn from Lalu Prasad Yadav, who, despite his poor health, faced marathon interrogation at the ED office for nearly 10 hours on Monday. He was provided home food and medicines during interrogation at the Patna ED office. A huge crowd of RJD supporters waited outside the ED office till late Monday night when Lalu came out and returned home. The land-for-jobs scam relates to the period from 2004 to 2009, when Lalu Yadav was the Railway Minister. The charge was that land parcels belonging to families of candidates, were transferred in the names of Lalu Yadav’s family members, and in return, the candidates were given Railway jobs in Class 4 category.

After Lalu Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav appeared before ED on Tuesday for questioning, and later Rabri Devi and her daughters may also be summoned for questioning. Lalu Yadav has been ailing since a long time after his kidney transplant, and people in Bihar have sympathy for him. But investigation agencies have their own compulsions. Since chargesheets have been filed in court, those who are accused need to be questioned in order to prepare a water-tight case which can reach a logical conclusion. Personally, I feel, Lalu Yadav should have been questioned at his residence, given his ailing health. He should be questioned once, instead of being summoned again and again. Till now, Lalu Yadav has cooperated in the probe, he has appeared before courts, and has also offered himself for questioning by ED after getting summons. Lok Sabha elections are round the corner and already Bihar has witnessed a big political change with Nitish Kumar joining the BJP camp. Posters of Nitish Kumar with Prime Minister Narendra Modi have started appearing in Patna and other cities. The assembly speaker Awadh Bihari Chaudhary, who belongs to RJD, has been given a no-confidence motion notice by the BJP-JDU alliance.

The opposition INDIA bloc is now floundering after Nitish Kumar’s exit. I have seen some of the remarks of several top opposition leaders after Nitish crossed over to BJP camp. They appeared to have been completely flummoxed by Nitish Kumar’s latest move. Leaders like Sharad Pawar, Mallikarjun Kharge, Lalu Yadav and others, who used to pride themselves as clever politicians on national scene, have been floored by what Nitish Kumar did on Sunday. Old political warhorse Lalu Yadav tried to ring up Nitish Kumar till the last moment, but the latter did not take his phone call. Lalu Yadav had no prior info about Nitish trying to pull the rug from under his son Tejashwi’s feet. Even Bihar BJP chief Samrat Chaudhary could not visualize, he would have to work under Nitish Kumar. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar was trying to make Nitish the convenor of INDI alliance. But Nitish’s move has smashed the bloc to smithereens. I would like to appreciate the role played by political reporters in Patna who knew what was going to happen in the coming days. These media soldiers were proved right, while the political titans just sat and watched. Political leaders should now stop complaining that TV news channels are only telecasting speculative and baseless stories.

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