There is no place for gangsters in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar promised a group of industrialists he was meeting in state capital Patna on Monday evening.
“If any don is seen outside, he will have to go to jail,” the Chief Minister said, hours after the country’s top court had rapped his government for its seeming lack of urgency in ensuring that Mohammad Shahabuddin, a former lawmaker serving two life sentences for murder, did not get bail.
At another event on Monday, the Chief Minister said that while he would not give alliance partners a chance to complain, he would also not compromise on what he called “kanoon ka raj” or the rule of law.
Nitish Kumar’s assertions on Monday are seen as a message to both Mr Shahabuddin and his boss Lalu Yadav, whose RJD is an ally in his government in Bihar.
Mohammad Shahabuddin, who is charged with crimes like murder, extortion and kidnapping in about 45 cases, was granted bail earlier this month by the Patna High Court and walked out of prison after 11 years, staging a massive show of strength and also challenging Nitish Kumar’s leadership of the ruling coalition.
Mr Shahabuddin has an axe to grind with the Chief Minister, who is credited with ending what many describe as the gangster-turned-politician’s reign of terror in Bihar’s Siwan a decade ago.
But after Nitish Kumar partnered with once bitter rival Lalu Yadav to win last year’s assembly election, his government has been accused by the opposition and those fighting cases against Mohammad Shahabuddin of presenting a weak challenge to bail in the High Court.
After his release, he has been spotted with wanted criminals in more embarrassment for the ruling coalition.
The BJP has called it the return of “jungle raj,” a term once used by Nitish Kumar to attack Lalu Yadav. The opposition party alleges that while earlier Nitish Kumar governments had doggedly presented strong cases against Mohammad Shahabuddin winning several convictions, the present avatar has made little effort to even bring pending cases to trial.
Mohammad Shahabbuddin got bail in a murder case because the trial had not begun.
Six days after Mr Shahabuddin was released the Bihar government moved the Supreme Court against his bail.