Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad on Monday claimed that he had warned Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, his arch-rival, against imposing prohibition in the state when the latter took the decision more than six years ago, heading a government of which the RJD was a part.
Prasad’s attempt to disown the controversial move of Kumar came at a time when the latter is facing the heat over a large number of deaths caused by consumption of spurious liquor recently, evoking a jittery reaction from the police which seems to have gone for the overkill in an attempt to effectively enforce the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol in the state.
“Nitish Kumar had spoken to me after taking the decision to impose prohibition. I had asked him how he would be able to implement it, pointing out the fact that Bihar was like a taapu (island), sharing its borders with Nepal and states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jharkhand where liquor would still be freely available,” the RJD supremo told reporters.
“I had told Nitish that you will end up losing revenue while smugglers will have a field day,” said Prasad whose younger son Tejashwi Yadav was Kumar’s deputy when the prohibition was clamped on the state in 2016.
According to Prasad, when Kumar, the de facto leader of the JD(U), seemed adamant, he put forward the condition that toddy tappers must not be made to suffer on account of the prohibition law.
“Nitish had talked big and said he will promote manufacture of neera beverage, prepared from palm tree fruit, in a big way which will help toddy tappers economically. As things have turned out, the toddy tappers, who are mostly Dalits, have been left waiting for good days atop the trees and now they are jumping off seeing the police in a foul mood,” the septuagenarian said in his trademark humorous style.
Asked whether he advocated a rollback of prohibition, Prasad said, "It is for them (ruling dispensation) to take a call. We had stated long back that difficulties in implementation be honesty acknowledged and the move be withdrawn".
The RJD supremo, who arrived here from Delhi in the evening to appear before a CBI court on Tuesday morning in connection with a fodder scam case, was reacting to questions about raids conducted by the police recently at wedding parties and arrest of professionals from other states who were caught drinking, unaware of the stringent law in place in Bihar.
“I have heard about unfortunate instances like police barging into the room of a bride before her wedding and searching her belongings, without bothering to take a female constable along. The police might have conducted the raid on the basis of a misleading tip-off, though such behaviour is unacceptable,” said Prasad.
The RJD supremo also dropped hints that he was looking forward to patching up with the Congress, his junior ally in the state which was rubbed the wrong way ahead of by-elections to a couple of assembly segments in the state recently causing the coalition partners to quarrel, much to the delight of the ruling NDA.
“We are all united. The RJD, the Congress, Chirag Paswan,” said Prasad who was also asked if his party is planning to help the late Ram Vilas Paswan’s son regain some lost ground in forthcoming elections to more than 20 seats of the state legislative council.
Upon his arrival in Patna, the RJD supremo drove straight to the residence of his elder son Tej Pratap Yadav only to discover that the mercurial MLA was not at home. Prasad left for his wife Rabri Devi’s residence where Yadav too reached shortly afterwards.
Talking to journalists, Yadav sought to clarify that his absence at the time of the father’s visit was a coincidence and not yet another of his frequent tantrums. "I was working out at the gym. I was not aware that father would be coming to my home,” said Yadav whose fulminations against the greater clout enjoyed by his younger brother keep making headlines.