The Income Tax Department on Tuesday conducted raids at 22 places in and around Delhi in connection with an alleged "benami" property case involving RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family, triggering calls by the opposition for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to end his party's alliance with the RJD and call for fresh elections.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has welcomed the IT raids and targeted Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar, saying the Centre initiated the action after he had demanded it.
The IT raids come a day after Nitish Kumar said that if there was documentary proof or solid evidence against the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and his family, then the central government should take legal action. His statement came in response to senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi's repeated allegations of benami property against Lalu Prasad and his family members.
"It is the right time for Nitish Kumar to end his party JD-U's alliance with RJD and hold fresh assembly polls," senior BJP leader Vinod Narayan Jha told media here.
Following the IT raids, Sushil Kumar Modi told the media in Patna that his stand was "vindicated".
He said he has put all the evidences related to benami property of Lalu Prasad, his elder daughter and two sons in the public domain.
Last week, he said that "no one knows whether Lalu Prasad would be in jail or outside before the August 27 rally of RJD".
Earlier, Modi had demanded a probe by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into the connections between Lalu Prasad and his family with jailed businessmen brothers Surendra Jain and Virendra Jain.
Modi said Lalu Prasad's eldest daughter, Misa Bharti, should reveal the source of funds with which she bought a farmhouse in Bijwasan area in New Delhi, alleging that the money actually belonged to Lalu, and was part of the Rs 1,000 crore fodder scam.
The BJP last week urged the central government to probe one such transaction in Delhi.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had alleged that these transactions were a case of quid pro quo as they date back to the period when Lalu Prasad was the Railway Minister, and dared Nitish Kumar to take action against him.
The RJD is a constituent of Bihar's ruling Grand Alliance, which includes the JD-U and Congress, and is led by Nitish Kumar. Lalu's younger son Tejashwi Yadav is Deputy Chief Minister and elder son Tej Pratap Yadav is Bihar Health Minister.
However, Lalu's ally JD-U and Congress have adopted a wait and watch stand on the latest developments.
Congress leader P.C. Mishra said the IT raids are nothing new against opposition leaders.
"Today the CBI has raided senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram's places in Chennai. Let's wait to see what IT gets in the raids or if it is only a part of pressure against opposition leaders like Lalu Prasad, who have been attacking the RSS, BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Congress is of the stand that if corruption evidence is found against any one, go ahead to take action," he said.
JD-U spokesperson Ajay Alok asked why is the BJP in a hurry and concluding the result of the IT raids. "It is a matter for the IT department. Unless the IT has recovered some evidences, it has no meaning at all."
Senior RJD leader and former Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said the IT raids are part of the BJP's political vendetta against rivals. "BJP has been conspiring against Lalu Prasad for his vocal criticism and his bid to unite all non-BJP parties ahead of the 2019 general elections," Singh said.
More than a dozen senior RJD leaders have visited Lalu Prasad at 10, Circular Road, his official residence, in high security zone, not far away from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's official residence, since Tuesday morning after the IT conducted raids.
"Some senior party leaders are still camping inside and Lalu has been discussing with them in closed door meetings about the issue," a staffer there said.
Lalu Prasad's lawyer Chitranjan Sinha was one of the first to visit him but left without saying anything to the waiting media persons.