Lalu Prasad addresses the media at 10 Circular Road in Patna on Saturday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh
Patna, Aug. 12: Lalu Prasad today held Sushil Kumar Modi responsible for the "fund transfer scam" involving Bhagalpur NGO Srijan.
Addressing a news meet at 10 Circular Road, former finance minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui in tow, Lalu said the scam began when Modi held the finance portfolio. He demanded the immediate removal of the BJP minister from Nitish Kumar's cabinet, alleging that most of the amount transferred to the NGO's account happened in Modi's tenure.
"According to treasury rule 34 and financial rule 6, treasury fund cannot be transferred to government accounts without the finance department's consent. Under whose orders the treasury fund was transferred to Srijan is a matter of investigation," Lalu said. "However, Sushil Modi held the finance department portfolio, apart from commercial taxes, for most of that time. "
Sushil Modi has been the finance minister of Bihar from 2005 to 2013 when Nitish broke off the alliance, and again from July 27 when the chief minister joined hands with the BJP again.
Authoritative sources in the special investigation team (SIT) probing the Srijan case have claimed the scam has crossed Rs 500-crore mark, and that the transfer of government funds began in 2007-08.
Lalu pointed out that the SIT constituted by the government was just an eyewash and demanded a CBI inquiry, saying this was bigger than the fodder scam.
"When the scam took place in the animal resources department, these leaders (Nitish and Modi) used to say it was the biggest scam in the world. But the scam that surfaced in Bhagalpur has touched the figure of Rs 1,000 crore; journalists have not been informed about the real figure. When the CBI investigates the matter you will come to know about the real figure."
"Nitish is taking the credit of constituting the SIT in which his blue-eyed officers have been made the in-charge. Within two days, the primary report was submitted and chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh held a news meet saying it is a scam. It is all a fixed match," Lalu said.
"I have come to know through newspaper reports that only small fish like clerk, stenographer have been arrested but what about big fish 'Rohu-rupi' Sushil Modi and 'Katla-rupi' Nitish Kumar. Can the SIT probe their role?
"If Nitish is not saving Modi, then he must sack Sushil Modi by tomorrow or else the Assembly session is coming and we have 80 MLAs. Think what we can do," Lalu said, adding that he would soon go to the CBI office in Patna to urge them to lodge an FIR in the scam as the SIT cannot conduct a fair investigation.
He showed people present at the news meet photographs showing Nitish, Sushil Modi, (now Delhi BJP chief) Manoj Tiwari and Giriraj Singh attending a function with late Manorama Devi, the founder secretary of Srijan. He claimed at least 12 district magistrates and businessman are involved in the scam.
The Reserve Bank of India, Lalu said, had written to the government in 2013 to probe into complaints regarding illegal transactions of money through Srijan's co-operative bank. "Then district magistrate of Bhagalpur had constituted a committee. Nitish and Modi should explain what was in the report. I have strong doubts that under Srijan, politicians and bureaucrats have looted the treasury fund. There is a report that Bhagalpur DM was pressured into transferring money into the Srijan account. Who was pressurising the DM? I demand a CBI and ED inquiry, or else the RJD will launch a political as well as legal battle," Lalu said.
Siddiqui - sitting next to Lalu - was asked why he could not sense the scam in his 20-month tenure. He replied: "On April 19, I held a meeting with finance department's principal secretary Ravi Mittal, RBI regional director N.P. Topna, Patna district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agarwal and other officials. I asked them to crack down on illegal non-banking financial institutions and gave a month's time but the report never came to me. The case of Srijan never came up to me."