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Laloo in damage-control dash

Patna, Aug. 1: Laloo Prasad Yadav’s proxy battle against Siwan MP Mohammad Shahabuddin today threatened to snowball into a crisis for the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief.

At least 12 party legislators launched a campaign against director-general of police D.P. Ojha, who had ordered Shahabuddin’s immediate arrest as part of his “war against criminalisation of politics”.

Ojha had also ordered withdrawal of the MP’s security, reopening of old cases against him and shifting of 36 criminal cases to Patna for independent trial.

The resultant protest by RJD legislators was so strident that Laloo Prasad today rushed back to Patna, cutting short his Amarnath yatra. “I am completely in the dark about the development. I watched the news on television in Jammu. Let me figure out the implications,” he said on arrival.

Challenging Ojha’s authority amounts to a revolt against Laloo Prasad because the former chief minister himself had chosen the officer as director-general.

After last evening’s demand in the legislative council for Ojha’s removal over “crucifying” Shahabuddin, at least six MLAs this morning met chief minister Rabri Devi, demanding action against the officer. They were led by minister Ejazul Haque, a relative of Shahabuddin, who also threatened to quit.

“We believe the director-general of police was motivated by his own political ambition to take this funny decision. The DGP has resorted to political blackmail to fulfil his own ambition,” a senior state minister said.

About 200 minority leaders of the RJD burnt Ojha’s effigy in the riot-prone Phulwarisharief locality of Patna.

Most legislators were not unaware of Laloo Prasad’s links with Ojha, dating back to former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur’s tenure when the officer had positioned himself as a “socialist sympathiser”.

Their ties were cemented in 1990 when the CBI blamed Ojha for not ordering a probe in the fodder scam.

Some rebel leaders said in private that Ojha could not have cracked down on Shahabuddin without taking Laloo Prasad into confidence. A war of nerves between the RJD chief and his MP has already been on as Shahabuddin is perceived to be out of Laloo Prasad’s control, they said.

Ojha has written to the Bihar home secretary that if the government failed to accept the law-and-order challenge posed by Shahabuddin, the concept of rule of law would vanish from the state.

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