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Rabri minister quits under kidnap cloud

Patna, April 9: A minister in Rabri Devi’s team today stepped down after an arrest warrant was issued against him for allegedly detaining two persons, including a policeman, in his house and torturing them for three days.

Bihar minister of state for excise and prohibition Surendra Prasad Yadav was left no option after a Gaya court issued the warrant yesterday, charging him with kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, torture and obstructing police officials in the discharge of their duties.

Surendra — notorious as a don in Gaya — is a confidant of Laloo Prasad Yadav but the RJD chief refused to take him under his wings for fear of the storm it could set off. Surendra is believed to have filed an anticipatory bail petition in Patna High Court. The court issued the warrant after inspector Ramakant Ram and three RJD leaders filed a complaint against Surendra. Among the RJD leaders is Pappu Yadav, brother in law of chief minister Rabri Devi’s brother Subhas Yadav, and Azad Gandhi, a legislative council member.

Investigating officers said the murky sequence of events began with a money launderer, Atul Prakash, fleeing to Anand in Gujarat with Rs 5 lakh an RJD leader had handed him for safekeeping. Opposition leaders see this as an elaborate ploy by RJD leaders to recover fodder money stashed away in other states.

After Prakash decamped with the money, Vinod Parasar, youth RJD general secretary, filed an FIR in Kotwali police station. Soon after, a team of policemen left for Anand to probe the case. The Gujarat police were also taken into confidence and a copy of the FIR was handed to them.

On March 24, the police in Patna were informed about Prakash’s arrest. Soon after, inspector Ramakant, RJD councillor Azad Gandhi and Pappu Yadav left for Anand.

But they did not return to Patna directly with Prakash in custody. Instead, they took a detour to Gaya and drove straight to Surendra’s house. Prakash and Ramakant were allegedly detained for three days in the house and tortured by the minister and his men over details of the Rs 5 lakh Prakash fled with. But Ramakant managed to sneak out and inform Gaya superintendent of police Ravindran Shankaran about the developments.

In a report to director-general of police D.P. Ojha, Shankaran is believed to have suggested that three more persons — the deputy superintendent of police, Kotwali, the additional officer in charge of the station and the secretary of the minister, Mohan Srivastava, be brought under probe. They are allegedly pawns in the hands of some RJD bigwigs.

Patna police today arrested three policemen, including torture victim Ramakant, an inspector of Kotwali police station. Two constables were also picked up. All three were charged with abuse of power and alleged involvement in shady dealings.

Bihar Opposition leader Sushil Modi said Surendra was the seventh minister in Rabri’s Cabinet to resign following criminal charges against them. This was a pointer to the government’s credibility, he said.

Rabri’s brother Subhas Yadav said neither he nor anyone in the chief minister’s house had anything to do with the case. Laloo Prasad merely said that the “law will take its own course”.

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