PATNA: Lalu Yadav, jailed in Jharkhand on Saturday after being convicted in a corruption case, has been to prison seven times before, twice in the state’s capital Ranchi and five times in Patna. But never before has he had to contend with a jail manual being followed in letter and spirit.
When the Bihar politician’s weekly quota of three visitors was exhausted within a couple of hours early on Monday morning, jail authorities informed him that according to the manual he can meet no more people all this week. Outside the Hotwar Central Jail, leaders and workers from his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) clamoured to meet Lalu Yadav and the party’s state chief Anupurna Devi and another top leader rushed to meet Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das of the BJP.
Mr Das was non-committal on their request that Lalu Yadav is a popular leader and so should be allowed unlimited visitors every day.
The RJD has now installed a register so that visitors can sign to say they had dropped in to meet Lalu Yadav. Many carry food and snacks for Mr Yadav, that is being delivered to him by jail staff.
It’s a big change from the last time Lalu Yadav was jailed in Ranchi in 2013. At that time, Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was chief minister and Lalu Yadav’s RJD was a partner in his government. Mr Yadav was lodged in a government guest house converted into a “special jail” and Mr Soren would visit him regularly. Even after the Supreme Court ordered that he be shifted to Betu jail, officials used to call on Lalu Yadav.
This time, Lalu Yadav is prisoner number 3351 and is lodged in an upper division ward that also houses six other politicians from different parties who are serving time.
Lalu Yadav had a heart surgery in 2014 and has several diet restrictions and so is allowed a cook in jail. But food can only be served at regulated meal times. Since Lalu Yadav has diabetes and often needs small snacks between meals, extra food is being sent to jail.
The RJD chief is vegetarian these days on the advice of astrologers.
On Saturday, Lalu Yadav was convicted along with 15 others by a special CBI court in a fodder scam case and was sent to jail. They are charged with the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs.89 lakh from the Deoghar treasury between 1991 and 1994. Six others, including former chief minister Jagannath Mishra, were acquitted.
The court will sentence Mr Yadav on January 3.
When he was first convicted in October 2013 in a related fodder scam case, Lalu Yadav had spent two months in jail before he got bail from the Supreme Court. He had to resign as a member of parliament and was barred from contesting elections for six years.
The former chief minister of Bihar has been charged in several cases related to the scam, in which Rs. 900 crore were embezzled from the state exchequer for fictitious medicines and fodder for cattle over a period of 20 years. The CBI started probing the case in 1996.
In May this year, the Supreme Court ruled that Lalu Yadav will have to stand trial in all the fodder scam cases, setting aside a high court order that dropped cases charges against the former Bihar chief minister.