NEW DELHI: CBI may question former Union steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan in connection with alleged illegalities in the Bokaro steel plant recruitment process in which relatives of some high-profile personalities are under the scanner of the agency.
Paswan, who is negotiating seating arrangements in Bihar for the coming general election, has come under the lens following recovery of some documents which, agency sources claimed, indicate that his staff may have been actively involved in extending favours to some candidates.
“Such actions cannot be taken at the level of lower rung staff without the approval of the minister concerned. We may question him (Paswan) in this connection. A final decision when the questioning would take place may be taken as the probe progresses,” a senior CBI official said.
The sources said documents submitted by some successful candidates have Paswan’s seals, his official address 12, Janpath and supporting letters from his staff recommending their names for the position in the Bokaro steel plant.
Paswan was Union minister for chemicals, fertilizers and steel during the UPA government between May 2004 and May 2009 and these allegedly fraudulent appointments were made during his tenure.
In January, CBI had registered two separate cases related to alleged irregularities in the appointments in the middle and junior management level in the public sector undertaking in 2008 in which a former executive director of the plant and other former senior officers have also been named as accused.
They said the agency has named junior managers SM Razi, Rajkumar Jatia and Yogesh Chandra Patnaik. They are relatives of a former governor, a former central minister, who is now a Rajya Sabha candidate, and a former high court judge respectively as accused in the FIRs.
It is alleged that these candidates were among those favoured in the appointment process.
LJP hints it has no problem in allying with Modi
Upset with the delay in firming up seat-sharing arrangement with Congress and RJD, LJP on Tuesday dropped enough hints of moving away from them while making it clear that it has no hesitation in working with Narendra Modi despite the taint of 2002 riots.
Chirag Paswan, son of LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, said the party’s Parliamentary Board will meet soon to decide the future strategy but refused to clearly spell out whether the party would be having an alliance with BJP.
Sources said Chirag, who heads LJP’s parliamentary board, and his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras are in talks with BJP for a possible alliance.
BJP MP Shahnawaj Hussain had called on LJP chief a few days back while senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had visited Paswan on January 14 on the day of Makar Sankranti.
Chirag said there is “distress” in LJP over the way the seat-sharing issue has been dragging with Congress and RJD.
Asked about Modi and whether LJP would have no problem with him in view of cases against him in connection with 2002 riots, he said, “If the court has given its verdict and they say he (Modi) is clean, then I do not think it is an issue to talk about now.”
Sources in LJP said a decision on the alliance will be finalized in a day or two.
In the wake of such moves seen as bargaining tactics by Paswan, Prasad appealed to him not to join hands with “communal forces” and remain with him to “save the nation”.
LJP sources said that the party, which was a part of NDA before parting way after the 2002 Gujarat riots, is unhappy over the dilly dallying by Congress and RJD over seat-sharing and is considering other options.
At the same time, the sources said, the alliance with Congress and RJD stands as of now.
Though a number of leaders in LJP are favouring an alliance with BJP, sources close to Paswan said that the leader has not yet taken the final call on dumping UPA.
His anger is more with RJD, whose leaders are not ready to accommodate LJP’s demand for at least nine seats.
LJP also fears that RJD could field dummy candidates in some seats spared for it as was done last time.
BJP president Rajnath Singh, however, was evasive on the issue, saying he was “not aware of what kind of talks” are taking place with LJP.
Asked if there would be any decision soon, he said, “if some announcement has to be made, you will be told.”
BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said a number of parties are reaching out to BJP as it is surging and Congress is losing. “But unless something concrete happens, we will not like to share anything,” he said.