The Patna High Court on September 7, 2016 released Muhammad Shahabuddin, a former MP from Siwan (Bihar) and allegedly involved in multiple criminal cases, on bail because the State government didn't pursue the case despite reminders by the High Court. Sushil Modi, the BJP leader and former deputy of Nitish Kumar alleged it was a well-executed strategy of the CM to favor Shahabuddin, a Lalu protégé. Nitish was bowing to Lalu for his support, the BJP accused.
The question also arises what the BJP was doing the entire time?
The BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha, Ravi Shankar Prasad, is the Law Minister at the center. The BJP also has its sitting MP from Siwan, Om Prakash Yadav. Om Prakash had defeated Hena Shahab, the RJD proxy candidate for her husband, twice at the Lok Sabha elections: first time (2009) as an Independent and the second time (2014) as a BJP candidate. This meant the mythical terror or popularity of Shahabuddin was on decline in Siwan. In the last Vidhan Sabha election (2015) too, the RJD candidate from Siwan had lost in the face of a wave in favor of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine.
The intensely competitive political climate also meant the stake for the BJP in Siwan (as in Bihar and India) was much higher. It had to build up on the waning popularity of Shahab and work hard to see the citizens of Siwan felt secured.
It was the BJP’s responsibility as the only recognized opposition party in Bihar to stay vigilant and foresee what was coming in many criminal cases against Shahabuddin. The BJP or its MP from Siwan could have intervened as a third party with better lawyers, evidence and arguments. Sadly, it failed in its duty. The BJP appears to be in shambles in Bihar.
It is alleged the BJP is also not clear of the criminal links either in Bihar or Jharkhand or elsewhere. It lobbies for criminal-politicians, gives tickets to candidates with criminal records. Amit Shah, the president of the BJP was himself accused of criminal charges in his home state of Gujarat. The attorney who fought his case or the judge who freed him of the charges were reported to have been rewarded with plum positions.
The larger question, again, is: Can the BJP be a ruling party to rid the Indian political system of crime and corruption? Can this be a moral force to take the State or the country forward?
Those who expected the BJP to play the role of a national alternative would like this party to be fundamentally restructured and transformed so that people could see the contrast. That may not be easy, but that’s what is needed.
The political-executive administration and judiciary in Bihar, in the meantime, have to tell the citizens of Bihar who were the culprits in Siwan for a series of crimes and murders. Who were responsible for murdering the two brothers with acid bath? Why were their parents fearful and reluctant to fight against Shahabuddin any further?
It was already in the air that Shahabuddin was monitoring or conducting politics of Siwan (and the surrounding areas) from the comfort of his apartment-like unit in the jail. He was provided with all amenities including frequent visitation by his hangers-on. The BJP could have held the Bihar Inspector General (prisons) directly responsible for the preferential royal treatment extended to Shahabuddin inside the prison. The BJP MP or MLA, as a representative of the people, could ask for an investigation even now following the murder of Rajdeo Ranjan, the Siwan bureau chief of Hindustan, a Hindi newspaper. Rajdeo had circulated the picture of Shahab with an RJD minister in Nitish’s government. The impotence of Nitish’s administration was so apparent.
However, the BJP’s slackness or indifference to the murder of Rajdeo Ranjan was also evident from the fact that it didn’t take either the Nitish government or the CBI to task for sleeping over the case for more than four months (May through September, 2016). Despite Nitish’s announcement, it was reported, there was no written memo from the state government asking the CBI to take over the case. The widow of the assassinated journalist had to be in Delhi knocking at the doors of Rajnath Singh, the BJP federal Home Minister, to have the case taken up and pursued speedily by the CBI.
The established links of Shahab with crime had to be taken into account by the judiciary. The former president of the JNUSU was also murdered in Siwan by his goons. Up until 2005, there was no bureau of any newspaper in Siwan. No landlord would dare give his house on rent to a newspaper organization. Shahab’s gunmen would force every shop keeper to hang a picture of Shahab? Shahab's thugs murdered police personnel, intimidated political opponents and forced the vulnerable sections to vote for him.
Shahab’s place in the criminalized politics of Bihar will have to be seen in the right perspective. He got the Robin Hood image in the beginning because, among other things, he came to the rescue of large, medium and small agriculturists whose lands were grabbed by criminal mafias masquerading as Maoists, Naxalites or CPI-MLs. Subsequently, however, Shahab and his mafia became the lead grabbers, murderers and extortionists. His activities flourished under the protective wings of Lalu and Rabri’s party, the RJD.
The Muslims of Siwan or elsewhere must not be defamed because of the criminal activities of Shahab. There were members of upper caste Hindus and others also in his network ready to spill blood. The criminals led by Shahab and his likes simply filled in the vacuum created by the absence of effective governmental administration and justice.
Now, all segments of Bihar have to unitedly fight for the restoration of justice, law and order in Bihar.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.