Placing his complete faith in the justice, Lalu Yadav had stood before the court for the second time for the charges of fodder scam against him. Today will be the third.
Hours ahead of the announcement of the quantum sentence to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad on Wednesday, party leaders, and workers are hoping that he receives a lenient sentence.
In a few hours from now, the special CBI court of judge Shivpal Singh will be pronouncing the quantum of sentence in the fodder scam case. Mr. Prasad, along 15 others, was convicted on December 23 and sent to jail in Ranchi. The trial in the case was completed on December 13.
The case pertaining to the alleged fraudulent withdrawal of ?84.5 lakh from Deoghar district (now in Jharkhand) treasury between 1994 and 1996 when Mr. Prasad was the Chief Minister of Bihar.
The special CBI court of Justice Shivpal Singh had completed the hearing in the fodder scam case RC 64(A) / 1996 on December 13.
CBI judge Shivpal Singh, on December 23, found Lalu and others guilty of fraudulently withdrawing Rs 89.23 lakh from Deoghar treasury by furnishing fake bills and vouchers related to fodder procurement between 1991 and 1994.
Six others, including former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra, were, acquitted in the case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of ?84.5 lakh from the Deoghar treasury during 1991-1994.
Police have made elaborate security arrangements around the court campus as Lalu and other convicts will be present during the hearing.
“The judge has held the accused persons convicted under sections 120(B) and 420 of the IPC and sections 13(1)(d) of the Prevention and Corruption Act under which quantum of sentence could be minimum of six months to a maximum of seven years in prison”, said Lalu Prasad’s lawyer Prabhat Kumar.
Mr. Kumar will be present in the court to decide on the future course of action like moving bail applications after sentencing.
“We hope and pray for a minimum sentence to our leader Lalu Prasad to move immediately to the lower court for bail, otherwise we have to move to the Ranchi High Court”, said Bhola Yadav, RJD MLA and long-time close aide of Mr. Prasad.
“We have full faith in the judiciary and almighty…let’s see what happens today,” Rabri Devi, party leader and wife of Mr. Prasad told media persons while her younger son Tejaswi Yadav said “whatever the court decides, we will abide by it, respect it…Laluji lives in every party workers and leaders heart”.
“Even God wills that Laluji should come out of jail soon,” added his elder son Tej Pratap Yadav.
Ever since Mr. Prasad has been lodged in the divisional ward of Birsa Munda Central jail, Ranchi, his party leaders, workers, and supporters have been thronging the prison complex.
However, the jail authorities have allowed only three persons, decided by Mr. Prasad himself, to meet him in a week. The State government had earlier rejected the demand of RJD leaders to relax the jail manual for Mr. Prasad as he is a “mass leader”.
However, jail sources said that Mr. Prasad has been keeping to himself inside the ward, watching the news on Doordarshan channel and reading some vernacular newspapers.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed…let us see what decision the court takes today. But for us, Lalu Prasad will always be our God on earth,” said a group of RJD workers gathered outside the jail gate on Wednesday morning.
Party sources said that none of Lalu Prasad’s family members would be in Ranchi on Wednesday and they would stay put in Patna to wait for the court’s decision. Party MLA and close aide Bhola Yadav would be monitoring the developments in Ranchi.
Meanwhile, political observers of the State said if Lalu Prasad got a jail sentence of over three years, “it would have a major impact on the party’s rank and file”.
“It will throw up a new challenge to Lalu Prasad’s family and his party as well…Lalu’s heir apparent Tejaswi Yadav and his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav both have to work hard to steer the party ahead and face the challenges posed by ruling alliance of JD(U) and BJP,” said political analyst Ajay Kumar.
RJD, meanwhile, has called a meeting of all party leaders, MLAs, MPs, and district presidents on January 6 at Patna to chalk out their future strategy. Party insiders said that Tejaswi Yadav is also likely to read a one-and-half page letter written by Mr. Prasad, before going to jail, to party leaders and workers on that day.
A State-wide agitation after January 15 to is on the anvil in an apparent bid to boost the morale of the party rank and file in absence of the RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
After Lalu Prasad’s conviction, Rabri Devi, Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav have been convening meetings with party leaders and legislators at regular intervals. “Every party leader and worker will become Lalu Prasad in his absence,” said State party chief Ram Chandra Purve.