Spelling more trouble for Lalu Prasad, Income Tax department today conducted raids and surveys at about 22 locations in Delhi and adjoining areas in connection with alleged benami deals of Rs 1,000 crore by the RJD supremo members of his family.
The BJP, meanwhile, demanded that the Nitish Kumar government, in which RJD is a coalition partner, probe the allegations of "shady land deals" of Lalu and some of his children. The Congress is also a constituent of the ruling alliance in Bihar.
The raids came days after the Supreme Court order of May 8 restoring the charge of criminal conspiracy against the RJD leader in all the four fodder scam cases against him in which he would now stand trial. Lalu has been barred from contesting an election after his conviction and sentencing in one of the fodder scam cases.
According to IT officials, raids were conducted at the premises of some prominent businessmen and real estate agents in Delhi, Gurgaon, Rewari and few others.
The searches were conducted at the premises of the son of RJD MP and former union minister Prem Chand Gupta, and few other businessmen.
While raids were conducted at a dozen locations, ten other premises were surveyed, IT sources said.
"People and businessmen connected to the land deals involving Lalu Prasad and his family are being searched. There are allegations of benami deals worth about Rs 1,000 crore and subsequent tax evasion," a senior official said.
The BJP had last week accused Prasad, his MP daughter Misa Bharti and his two sons, both ministers in the Nitish Kumar government, of being involved in "corrupt" land deals worth over Rs 1,000 crore, and asked the Centre to probe one such transaction in Delhi. Lalu's younger son Tejashwi Yadav is the deputy chief minister of Bihar.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had alleged that these transactions were a case of "quid pro quo" as they dated to the period when Lalu Prasad was the railway minister, and dared Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumarto take action against him.
Prasad had claimed one such land deal involving Lalu and his family members was in Bijwasan in Delhi.
Meanwhile, in Patna, Lalu put up a brave face, saying he was "not scared at all" and will continue to fight against "fascist forces", his often repeated expression while making a reference to BJP.
"BJP mein himmat nahi hai ki Lalu ki awaz ko daba sake...Lalu ki awaz dabayenge to desh bhar me karoron Lalu khare ho jayenge...Main gidarbhabhki se nahi darne wala hoon (BJP does not have the courage to stifle my voice...If it tries to silence one Lalu, crores of Lalu will come forward. I am not scared of empty threats)," he said in a series of tweets.
In another tweet, the RJD boss alleged the BJP was "sensing an opportunity to desstabilise the Grand Alliance government in Bihar" but asserted the coalition was "intact".
"Do not be tempted, the alliance is intact. Many more parties with a common ideology are going to join hands with us. I am not scared of the BJP letting loose the government machinery on me," he wrote on the microblogging website.
In another tweet, he said, "RSS-BJP ko Lalu ke naam se kampkapi chhuti hai...Inko pata hai ki Lalu inke jhooth, loot aur jumlon ke kaarobar ko dhwast kar raha hai, to dabav banao (The RSS-BJP shiver after hearing the very name of Lalu...They know that Lalu is destroying their trade based on lies, loot and gimmicks and that is why they are putting pressure on me)."
He spoke of the BJP having forged a "new alliance", which RJD spokesman Manoj Jha later clarified was a reference to central government agencies like Income Tax department and the CBI.
As raids and surveys continued, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi demanded in Patna that the Nitish Kumar government order investigation of alleged "shady deals".
Modi said Income Tax department had acted on the basis of information that was in public domain for the last 40 days and that now the Nitish Kumar government should take action against Lalu and his sons who, he alleged, had engaged in benami deals in Bihar.
Modi, who was deputy CM under Nitish Kumar when the JD(U) and BJP ran a coalition government in Bihar, demanded that the benami properties be seized. Benami transactions are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property is purchased.
The BJP leader had earlier alleged that Lalu's daughter Misa Bharti had laundered money through a shell company to buy a farmhouse in Delhi's Bijwasan at a throwaway price and its market value was estimated at Rs 50 crore.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had claimed the companies owned by Lalu Prasad's family for the purpose of land transactions had no employees, no business activity and no turnover.
He had alleged Bihar's biggest shopping mall spread over 7.5 lakh square feet which was coming up in Patna was part of such "dubious" transactions.