Former Bihar Chief Minister Convicted in “Fodder Scam”

Lalu Prasad, former chief minister of Bihar, center, at a court in Ranchi, Jharkhand, on Monday.

Lalu Prasad, former chief minister of Bihar, center, at a court in Ranchi, Jharkhand, on Monday.

NEW DELHI – A longtime political heavyweight from the eastern Indian state of Bihar was found guilty on Monday of participating in a corruption scheme known as “Fodder Scam,” in which mid-ranking officials created false receipts and siphoned off public funds earmarked for animal husbandry for more than a decade.

Lalu Prasad, 65, served as India’s railway minister and Bihar’s chief minister for many years, presiding over a state so mired in corruption and poverty that it became known as “the Jungle Raj.” Despite a poor record Mr. Prasad was re-elected once, and when forced to step aside in a corruption scandal in 1997, he appointed his wife as his stand-in. She was also re-elected.

Though Mr. Prasad’s party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, finally lost state elections in 2005, it still holds four seats in parliament and is allied with the Indian National Congress. If he receives a sentence of more than two years, he will not be able to run for re-election.

Scores of Bihar officials were found guilty in the “Fodder Scam” case on Monday. Many have speculated that Mr. Prasad’s case was the basis for a controversial ordinance backed by the Congress party, which would protect the status of politicians facing prosecution.

With India’s electorate increasingly frustrated over a drumbeat of corruption cases, the ordinance has come under harsh criticism. Last week, Rahul Gandhi, Congress’s vice president, made a dramatic announcement rejecting the ordinance as “nonsense,” leading to speculation that the government might recall it.

Under Mr. Prasad’s leadership, Bihar was home to some of India’s sickest, poorest and shortest-lived people. A capable populist who came from one of India’s lower castes, he was widely credited with infusing Bihar’s lower castes with political power, and of cracking down on religious violence in the state, which won him the loyalty of many Muslims in Bihar….

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