Every investigator knows the first rule of solving a crime: Who is the beneficiary? Can we try applying this rule to the 'assault' on Lalu Prasad Yadav?
I find it very difficult to believe that Narendra Modi would ask his followers to pelt the Union railway minister with stones when he went to Vadodara. It would be suicidal idiocy to do so knowing that there is a hostile government in Delhi. And whether you admire the chief minister of Gujarat or loathe his very existence, you must admit that Narendra Modi is far from being an idiot.
Gujarat sets up commission to probe attack on Lalu
It is, in any case, a moot point, since there is not a shred of proof that Narendra Modi was involved -- apart, of course, from Lalu Prasad Yadav's frenzied and vulgar outbursts. Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma -- a veteran Congressman and no friend of the BJP -- could not find any such evidence. If anything, the shoe is on the other foot since there is really nothing to prove when the 'assault' took place.
The railway minister landed in Gujarat without informing the state government (which learned about it only at the last minute thanks to the air control authority at Vadodara's airport). It seems even the Indian Railway officials themselves had been kept in the dark. How else can you explain the fact that the railway minister was travelling around Vadodara in a taxi rather than an official car?
Finally, even Lalu Prasad Yadav never saw anyone throwing stones, he says it was done when he was visiting the hospital where victims of the Sabarmati Express accident had been admitted. Was it to discuss this piece of hearsay that the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs was hastily summoned?
Dare I say that it is a strange 'assault' which leaves the alleged victim without a scratch? The prime minister and Union home minister seem to have realised that there was something suspicious about the incident; both were conspicuously silent in Parliament when the issue was raised. And so I return to the original question: Who benefits?
Lalu Prasad Yadav has been making the news for all the wrong reasons since February. He lost power in the assembly election. His record as railway minister has been undistinguished. The high court in Ranchi has permitted charges to be filed against him in the fodder case. The Supreme Court, no less, has demanded to know why the tax authorities hurriedly closed a disproportionate assets case against him soon after the United Progressive Alliance ministry was formed.
Finally, there is an ongoing investigation into the manner in which Rs 17 crore meant for flood relief in Bihar suddenly vanished; Governor Buta Singh, the man in charge during President's Rule, has promised a full enquiry. (The first fruits of President's Rule in Bihar started to emerge when the police raided Mohammad Shahabuddin's house in his native village in Siwan district. The formidable Rashtriya Janata Dal MP was a law unto himself when Lalu Prasad Yadav ruled Bihar.)
Let them eat plastic bags
Apart from the Flood Relief Scam, which burst into the news thanks to a media investigation, Lalu Prasad Yadav must have known about the fallout of the other bad news. He has already been 'betrayed' -- so his own followers insist -- by the Congress' refusal to let him have a free hand in Bihar. (Or to kick Ram Vilas Paswan out of the Union Cabinet!) Under the circumstances, Lalu Prasad Yadav must be hunting for a pretext to tie the Congress to himself lest it ditch him in the name of morality. Is that why the railway minister insisted on the prime minister calling a Cabinet meeting the very night of the 'assault?'
There is, of course, no little irony in Lalu Prasad Yadav raising such a stink. I remember his reaction when Jayalalithaa decided to arrest Karunanidhi, the late Murasoli Maran, and T R Baalu (the two latter being members of the Union Cabinet at the time). The RJD boss's reaction was to thank the Tamil Nadu chief minister for demonstrating that the states had their own powers. He even mused aloud on arresting L K Advani, then Union home minister, if he set foot in Bihar.
T R Baalu, who is now one of Lalu Prasad Yadav's colleagues, may be silent about what happened four years ago but Ram Vilas Paswan is less forgiving. Reacting to the news, Paswan recalled that he himself had been attacked by RJD mobs when he visited Bihar in the capacity of railway minister in the Vajpayee government. Mulayam Singh Yadav chipped in by adding that if the Narendra Modi ministry were to be dismissed for not providing security to visiting Union ministers, then the railway minister should be sacked for failing to provide security for passengers.
Lalu Prasad Yadav must have known that his call for imposing President's Rule would go nowhere. The DMK has historically been against Article 256. The Left Front openly opposed the idea. The Congress, even if it chose to back the RJD chief, could do nothing in the face of such barriers.
So why did Lalu Prasad Yadav create such a hue and cry? Was it to put the crown of martyrdom on his head?