PATNA: Amid the election of a new Bihar Assembly Speaker on Wednesday, the ruling BJP and opposition RJD were involved in a political slugfest over an audio clip of an alleged telephonic talk of jailed RJD leader Lalu Prasad with an NDA MLA.
While the BJP claimed that Lalu Prasad was luring National Democratic Alliance MLAs with ministerial posts, the opposition RJD rubbished the charge and even questioned the authenticity of the said clip.
Even as the audio clip was circulating on the social media, MLA Lallan Paswan — who features on the clip — vouched for its genuineness on Wednesday. Paswan is the BJP MLA from Pirpaiti in Bhagalpur district.
"Everything is recorded. I thought everybody is congratulating me on the victory, so they are also going to do the same," he said, adding that he was at Sushil Kumar Modi's residence when he received the call.
"As the entire conversation was recorded on my phone, I have presented it to my senior party leader Sushil Kumar Modi. I have also submitted it to the top BJP leadership as evidence," Paswan said.
In the audio clip, Lalu Prasad - who is lodged at the Director's Bungalow at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi for treatment - was allegedly heard talking to BJP MLA Paswan and congratulating him on his election.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal leader then allegedly asked Paswan to help the opposition party in the Assembly Speaker's election and assured him of making him a Minister once the RJD came to power.
When Paswan pleaded that he was bound by party discipline, Lalu allegedly told him: "Absent yourself from the Assembly today. Say that you have coronavirus infection. We will see once our man gets elected as Speaker."
Even as the MLA further expressed his reluctance in the clip, the RJD leader reportedly again asked him to not attend the Assembly on Wednesday.
Senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi - who posted the audio clip on his official Twitter handle — accused Lalu Prasad of calling up newly elected MLAs of the National Democratic Alliance to lure them. He tweeted: "Lalu Prasad showing his true colours. Lalu Prasad luring an NDA MLA to vote in favour of the Grand Alliance in Assembly Speaker's election."
On the other hand, the RJD said the allegation was "baseless". RJD leader Bhai Virendra accused Sushil Kumar Modi of talking on irrelevant things, adding that the BJP was trying to divert public attention from main issues.
In a tweet on Tuesday evening, Sushil Kumar Modi had alleged that Lalu Prasad had been calling up NDA MLAs from Ranchi and luring them with ministerial posts. "When I called up that number, Lalu Prasad himself picked up the phone. I told him not to indulge in such antics from jail and that he will not succeed," the BJP leader said.
While the NDA has 125 MLAs in the new Assembly, the Grand Alliance has 110. Lalu Prasad was lodged in Ranchi jail after his conviction in several fodder scam cases. However, he is at present admitted in RIMS for treatment.
BJP Bihar unit President Sanjay Jaiswal alleged that Lalu Prasad was "doing dirty politics" but would not succeed in his attempts to lure NDA MLAs. "Now it is clear that the RJD wants to bring down the NDA government in Bihar through horse-trading."
"The actions of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and his father are unacceptable during the election of new Speaker. Lalu Prasad is sitting in the bangalow of RIMS Director. He has used his house to influence a constitutional process. It is highly condemnable. I appeal to the Jharkhand High Court to take cognisance of the matter and send him to Tihar jail in Delkhi," Jaiswal said.
"Lalu Prasad's conduct is against the High Court judgment. Despite getting convicted and undergoing a jail term, he is influencing and pressuring our MLA to absent himself on the voting day," Jaiswal remarked.
He said that BJP member Ratnesh Singh would move the Jharkhand High Court in Ranchi to shift Lalu Prasad to jail.
Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha, who is RJD chief spokesperson, took a dig at Sushil Kumar Modi and said that his politics started with Lalu Prasad's name and ended too with his name.
"Sushil Kumar Modi is no more relevant in his own party. The top BJP leadership has sidelined him. Now, he wants to show his importance to his party leaders by taking the name of Lalu Prasad. Everyone knows about his politics. He is a man who believes in creating rumours all the time," Jha alleged.
Reacting to the audio clip, Jha said: "There are so many people across the country who can mimic Lalu Prasad's voice and style. The BJP conduct is highly unacceptable and condemnable."
As for Jaiswal's remark to shift Lalu Prasad to Tihar jail, Jha quipped: "Time will tell who goes to Tihar jail." (IANS)