| JDU MLAs protest outside the Assembly in Patna on Wednesday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Patna, July 9: A Lok Sabha MP was today at the epicentre of possibly one of the biggest bedlams that the Bihar Legislature witnessed.
The ruling JDU, RJD and Congress members stalled proceedings in both Houses. They were demanding BJP MP from Nawada, Giriraj Singh’s arrest and termination of his Lok Sabha membership over recovery of Rs 1.14 crore and US$ 600 in cash and jewellery from four persons arrested after a theft at Giriraj’s house.
Giriraj said: “My political opponents are behind efforts to malign me. The recovered money belonged to my cousin and other relatives.” An otherwise wily and voluble Giriraj preferred to be laconic on the issue, avoiding elaboration on specific queries.
Sources in the BJP said Giriraj — believed to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “blue-eyed” boy for having backed him even at the cost of earning then chief minister Nitish Kumar’s wrath when the BJP and JDU were in alliance — stood a fair chance of being inducted into the Modi ministry in the next reshuffle.
His age made him a frontrunner among Bihar’s upper caste Bhumihars for a ministerial berth. The other Bhumihars in the party, C.P. Thakur and Bhola Prasad, are over 75, an age seen as a disqualification in the Modi government.
It is not known if Giriraj would eventually emerge guilty. “What is sure is he has lost a chance to become a minister. Modi is in no way going to induct him in his ministry now,” a senior BJP leader said.
This is not the first time Giriraj — who debuted in politics as an MLC in 2006 — has courted controversy.
In the middle of the Lok Sabha election, he had said Narendra Modi’s opponents should be sent to Pakistan, embarrassing his party. Many in the BJP blamed Giriraj’s “mindless” statement for Muslims voting with a vengeance to defeat it in Muslim-dominated Bhagalpur, Kishanganj, Araria, Purnea and Katihar seats. The BJP washed its hands of Giriraj’s “send to Pakistan” remark but the damage had been done.
The party has again washed its hands of Giriraj. “It is for Giriraj to explain. It is not an issue related to the party. The government can take action if it finds evidence against him,” BJP leader of opposition in the Assembly, Nandkishore Yadav, said. BJP insiders, however, fear a bigger dent to the party’s image. Immediately after the burglary at Giriraj’s home, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi had said: “Even an MP’s home is not safe now. The company of Lalu and Nitish will take Bihar back to the bad old days.”
Several BJP leaders looked stunned when former chief minister Nitish Kumar said: “The haul is big. It raises question on where it came from.”
Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi was measured in his reaction. “Nothing will be done out of political vendetta or bias in the Giriraj Singh case. The law will take its course,” he said.
Earlier, as animal and fish resources minister, Giriraj had embarrassed the ruling establishment by domesticating 40 goats of different breeds, five emus and exotic birds at his official residence.
He had moved the birds elsewhere after The Telegraph reported it on June 26, 2011, and then chief minister Nitish reportedly gave him a dressing down.
Former chief minister Rabri Devi, a member of the Legislative Council, demanded a CBI probe against Giriraj for possessing “assets beyond known sources of income.”