Ready to face CBI probe, says Paswan

NEW DELHI, NOV. 29. The war of words between the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief, Lalu Prasad, and his Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) counterpart, Ram Vilas Paswan, continues unabated. A day after Mr. Prasad levelled charges of corruption against him, Mr. Paswan challenged him to get the charges probed by the CBI.

Saying he was innocent, Mr. Paswan said he was prepared to face a CBI probe and promised to quit if the charges were proved. "Leave alone Rs. 800 crores, if it is proved that I swindled even eight rupees, I will quit politics," Mr. Paswan said.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr. Paswan said that Mr. Prasad was rattled by the response he was getting in Bihar and hence was making "wild and baseless charges."

Mr. Prasad and Mr. Paswan buried the hatchet to contest the Lok Sabha elections as allies, but their relations nosedived soon after the polls. Mr. Prasad used his strength of numbers to keep Mr. Paswan out of the Railway Ministry and Mr. Paswan retaliated by calling off the alliance and declaring his intention of going it alone in the Assembly elections.

Slanging match

Though both the leaders are Ministers in the UPA Government at the Centre, they have been constantly taking pot shots at each other, much to the embarrassment of the UPA leadership. Two days ago at a rally in Patna, Mr. Paswan accused Mr. Prasad of being a "scamster." Mr. Prasad retaliated a day later by charging Mr. Paswan with corruption in a "crane deal" when he was Railways Minister and threatened to order an inquiry into it.

The latest slanging match between the two Ministers comes a day before the commencement of the winter session of Parliament and the Opposition parties are likely to use the issue to embarrass the UPA Government. Both sides are currently involved in a no holds barred fight and senior political observers believe that the bitterness will only peak as the Bihar Assembly elections draw near.

Mr. Paswan said he had refrained from replying in kind to Mr. Prasad's " wild allegations" out of decency. "My decency should not be considered my weakness. But when anyone hurls charges against me, I cannot take it lying down as my silence will be treated as my acceptance of the allegation," he said.

Mr. Prasad and the RJD leaders have openly accused Mr. Paswan of patronising criminals. Some days ago, the Bihar police raided the residences of two LJP MLAs in Patna, in connection with the kidnapping of two NHPC engineers. Mr. Paswan today not only rejected the charges but also accused the RJD of adopting double standards on the issue. "As long as Pappu Yadav was in his party, the RJD used to describe him as a criminal. But, now that he has joined RJD, he has become a saint," said Mr. Paswan.

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