‘I am not notorious but popular’ [Interview]

Mohammed Shahabuddin has been surrounded by supporters ever since he left jail on bail. He says he is 'as pure as fire'
Mohammed Shahabuddin has been surrounded by supporters ever since he left jail on bail. He says he is ‘as pure as fire’

Seated on a plastic chair under the shadow of a neem tree in front of his sprawling house at his native village of Pratappur in Siwan district, Mohammad Shahabuddin is encircled by hundreds of supporters round the clock. They belong to different sections in society as well as political parties. No less than 50,000 people from remote areas of the state have congratulated him since he was granted bail by the Patna High Court and freed on 10-13 September. In an hour-long interview with Kanhaiya Bhelari, it is clear he knows the latest fallout of his utterances have triggered a storm in political circles. But his body language suggests he is not worried. Rather, he is engaged in solidifying his stronghold among the masses, presumably to take on the battle of ballot that may take place in days to come. Edited Excerpts from an interview.

Edited Excerpts from an interview.

Q You have triggered an earthquake in political circles by making the statement that Nitish Kumar is Chief Minister due to circumstances. What do you really want to say?

A I am not a cunning politician. Whatever I speak, that comes from the bottom of my heart without fear and favour. I have expressed the truth. Just like HD Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral [former PMs] and Madhu Koda, Nitish Kumar was selected the leader of a coalition under compulsion to check the BJP from coming to power in Bihar. Is it not true? It was Lalu Prasad Yadav who had initiated the Grand Alliance right after facing humiliating defeat in the general elections. It clicked.

But you could have avoided taking up the controversial question in the interest of the coalition. Do not you realise, your answer has put the survival of the 11-month-old Nitish-led government at stake?

I do not care of the consequences. I have not attacked the government nor have made any personal comment against Nitish Kumar. He should not take it otherwise. Apart from senior leaders like Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, even my leader Lalu Prasad Yadav has endorsed my statement on the issue. The government is not going to be destabilised. It is the NDA which is uselessly making a hue and cry about my statement.

Do you accept Bihar Chief Minister as your leader after Lalu Prasad Yadav?

I am not among those who change their leaders and parties within two hours. Suppose tomorrow Rahul Gandhi is picked up as prime ministerial nominee by coalition political outfits opposed to the BJP, shall I accept him as my leader? Not at all, never ever. I have embraced Lalu Prasad Yadav as my sole neta (leader) for my whole life.

So can we take it you heartily endorse the continuation of the Nitish Kumar government?

(Smiles) I wanted the coalition government to continue so that the BJP is not able to capture power. Who is to be leader of the coalition government is to be decided by leaders of the different coalition partners. My job is to dance at the direction of my leader Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Would you like to see Tejaswi Prasad Yadav as chief minister?

I wanted to see the BJP and other communal forces out of power, the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance government to continue. Yes, I appreciate that the younger generation in politics is doing well. I am showering tonnes of blessings for Tejaswi to excel in politics and achieve his ambition, whatever it is. But mind it; my leader will always be Lalu Prasad Yadav.

You are a don, are you?

(Laughs) You mediawalas branded me as a don. I am a servant of people of Siwan in particular and Bihar in general. I am alive for them and will be losing my life for them. I have not shot even a bird. See the uninterrupted spontaneous crowd at my house, coming only to see me. I do not have a single enemy. Had I been a criminal, I would have been careful all the time, even right now, in front of you with a number of security men around me to keep a sharp vigil on visitors.

As many as 37 criminal cases have been filed against you. You have also been convicted in half a dozen cases. What does it show?

I started my political career as a strong fighter against the misdeeds of an ultra Left party — those days it was called the Indian People’s Front (IPF). I was elected as an independent MLA from Jeeradai Assembly seat in 1990. Soon I joined the Janta Dal. When the party split in 1997, I sided with Lalu Prasad Yadav. It was a violent fight against the Maoist wing that led to the filing of criminal cases against me. I have done a lot for the people of the district belonging to all castes and creeds. You can do a survey. I am not notorious, but popular.

Brutal murders of Chandrasekhar, ex-JNU president, and Rajiv Ranjan, Hindi Hindustan bureau chief, are alleged to have been masterminded by you.

Chandrasekhar and Rajiv Ranjan happened to be my close friends. I used to speak to them. It is a very childish allegation. What did I get out of their killings? Chandrasekhar used to come to my MP residence in Delhi and we would discuss politics of Siwan for hours. The CBI has already concluded the Chandrasekhar case whereas the Rajdev Ranjan case has been solved by Bihar police.

Do you know that the wife of Rajdev Ranjan, Asha Sinha, has sought a CBI probe, meeting home minister Rajnath Singh a couple of days ago?

The state government has already recommended the same, four months back. I also support the CBI. I am as pure as fire. I wanted to meet the wife of the slain press reporter. But unfortunately she is under the influence of Siwan Lok Sabha BJP member, Om Prakash Yadav, who took her to the home minister.

The Bihar government faces embarrassment following your release from jail. It is considering going to the apex court to get your bail cancelled. What do you say?

It should go. But correct your perception. By doing so, the government will challenge the authority of the high court which has granted me bail. I came to know from media that Prasant Bhushan too has made up his mind to approach the Supreme Court to cancel my bail. I welcome him too.

The state capital is abuzz with rumours that the government may send you jail under the Crime Control Act (CCA).

During my 11 years of incarceration, I read many books written by veterans like Deen Dayal Upadhaya, LK Advani, Manmohan Singh and Srilal Shukla, kept a vulture’s eye on the political developments across the world through newspapers. That made me very strong from inside. I am not afraid of such rumours. I fear only Allah, God and Bhagwan.