Date: 6/24/2004



...............Shahabuddin's secret visit to Gorakhpur

LUCKNOW: Revelations about a "secret" visit of Bihar's most infamous mafia-turned-politician Shahabuddin to Gorakhpur, headquarters of North Eastern Railways (NER), on June 5 has sent alarm bells ringing in the UP police department. It fears that Shahabuddin's visit may see a re-run of gang wars in eastern UP over an yearly Rs 400 crore railway "contract industry" in the region.

Poorvanchal has already witnessed innumerable bloodbaths spreading over two decades since 1980s when rivalry over lucrative railway contracts compelled the then chief minister Vir Bahadur Singh to use the word ‘mafia' for the first time in the state Assembly to address Hari Shanker Tewari and Virendra Sahi — considered to be pioneers of railway tender pooling cartels in UP.

Since the last few years, gangwars over railway contracts have taken a back seat with present dons, eager to earn a fast buck, shifting their focus to kidnapping, smuggling, contract killing and politics. At the same time, some top railway officials found the opportunity as a blessing in disguise and they filled up the vacuum created by the dons. Some of these officials have floated companies with their associates and ensured that the bulk contracts go to these companies.

In this scenario, Shahabuddin's trip to this epicentre of railway contract industry is sure to see some activity behind the scene as well, fears a senior officer of the Government Railway Police (GRP).

But call it Shahabuddin's terror or his political clout, none in the state government, including the intelligence agencies, could muster courage to even draft an official note on the issue to at least inform the powers-that-be, leave alone making a strategy to keep him off the scene. What adds to the police fears is that not only Shahabuddin visited Gorakhpur in the air-condition saloon of the special train carrying railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, but held several "closed cabin" meetings with top railway officials from Delhi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur.

Reacting to such meetings, a senior officer explained: "This is the best and safest way for politicians to communicate their proximity with someone without even uttering a word... those who had seen Shahabuddin enjoying the company of Laloo in the latter's saloon will not think twice to oblige the Bihari don... and all this without Laloo himself coming into the picture.''

The fact that when Laloo invited reporters for a quick interface inside his saloon, Shahabuddin disappeared for a while only to surface after the camera crew and photojournalists had left the scene aptly explains that the minister wanted to ensure that his "friend's" presence was not "felt".