When CBI sought Army’s help to arrest Lalu

A month before Lalu Prasad was to hoist the national flag on the occasion of 50th Independence Day in 1997, the Joint Director of the CBI, UN Biswas, arrived in Patna to arrest Lalu. A West Bengal-cadre IPS officer of 1968 batch, Biswas was supervising the investigation of multi-crore fodder scam. (PTI file photo)

Much before the standoff between Mamata Banerjee and the Centre over the ‘misuse’ of the CBI, there was a similar slugfest in Bihar too.

A month before Lalu Prasad Yadav was to hoist the national flag on the occasion of the 50th Independence Day in 1997, UN Biswas, Joint Director of the CBI, arrived in Patna to arrest Lalu. A West Bengal-cadre IPS officer of the 1968 batch, Biswas was supervising the investigation in the multi-crore fodder scam.

Inder Kumar Gujral was the Prime Minister heading the United Front Government. Incidentally, Gujral was then a Rajya Sabha member from Bihar. With an ‘obliged’ PM who was backed by the then Congress President Sitaram Kesri (an OBC leader and staunch Lalu supporter in the post-Mandal era), no one could, in those days, question an all-powerful Lalu.

However, the CBI sought Governor AR Kidwai’s sanction to prosecute the chief minister. Due to Lalu's rapport with Kidwai, coupled with the Gujral and Kesri factor, the governor put the CBI request on the backburner.

Biswas then headed to the Raj Bhavan, met Kidwai and personally convinced him about the evidence collected against Lalu. The sanction to prosecute the chief minister was okayed. Lalu’s men then threatened that there would be a bloodbath if he was arrested.

Biswas then made a call to the Bihar chief secretary. He was not available. The top CBI cop then dialled the Bihar DGP, who said that he needed some time to think it over. It was then that Biswas asked the CBI SP to seek the help of the Army to arrest Lalu.

The CBI SP’s letter to the Danapur Army cantonment said: “As per the oral directions issued by the Patna High Court, this is to request you for favour of providing immediately armed contingent comprising at least one company to assist the CBI to arrest Lalu Prasad…..”

The Army officer did not respond to the request saying that the Army would come to the aid of civil administration only at the request of notified civil authorities.

The then Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta (of CPI), however, reprimanded the CBI for the procedure lapses. “…We do not want any Tom, Dick or Harry to seek Army’s help to assist the civil administration….” the Home Minister said in the Rajya Sabha in 1997.

However, Lalu was eventually arrested soon after he installed his wife Rabri Devi as the chief minister of Bihar.

Incidentally, IPS officer Biswas, after retirement, joined the Trinamool Congress. The political greenhorn contested the West Bengal Assembly elections in 2011 from Bagada constituency and defeated Forward Bloc’s Mrinal Kranti by nearly 21,000 votes. The IPS officer-turned-politician was inducted as a minister by Mamata Banerjee, who, ironically, is now spewing venom against the CBI.

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When CBI sought Army’s help to arrest Lalu

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