Former TimesNow anchor Arnab Goswami on Saturday launched his new venture Republic TV with a predictably eyeball grabbing segment – what he claimed was exposé on the questionable relationship between Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and criminal-turned-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin.
The channel aired an audio clip that it claimed was a conversation that took place between the two when the former Siwan MP was in jail. Yadav can purportedly be heard taking instructions from Shahabuddin on how the police should act in cases of violence in Siwan.
Although Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose Janata Dal (United) is in an alliance with the RJD in the state, and Yadav have not responded to the TV report yet, the news drew immediate political reactions.
The channel quoted Union minister Venkaiah Naidu saying that the tape had “shocked the nation”. The information and broadcasting minister also congratulated Goswami for Republic TV’s launch.
Similarly, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said Goswami had exposed how Yadav took orders from “dreaded criminal” Shahbuddin and questioned whether the Nitish Kumar government would take action against him.
Another BJP leader and Uttar Pradesh minister Siddharth Nath Singh said on Republic TV that the channel’s report left the Bihar government with “no option but to file a[n] FIR against Lalu Prasad”. He also alleged that the “mafia” was running the state government.
Maharashtra Congress Secretary Shehzad Poonawalla, however, dismissed the report, claiming that Goswami had been given “planted stories on non-BJP governments”. These, he alleged, included those of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party administration in Delhi, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal and the Congress-led Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka.
In the past, Yadav has denied having contacted Shahabuddin, who is currently in Delhi’s Tihar Jail now serving a life sentence following conviction in 10 cases. He was shifted to the Capital from Bihar’s Siwan Jail in February for a fair trial after the Supreme Court heard appeals that said he wielded considerable influence and carried on his criminal activities in Siwan even from inside jail.
There are some 45 cases still pending against Shahabuddin. On April 17, he was acquitted in a triple murder case dating back to 1989. The RJD leader was among the eight accused in the case.