Nitish Kumar deferred Godhra probe to save Modi: Lalu

Patna, April 17 (IANS) Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Wednesday alleged that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as the union railway minister in 2002 had deferred a probe into the setting on fire of Sabarmati Express at Godhra station to save Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

"Nitish Kumar deferred an inquiry into the Godhra incident after Narendra Modi approached him. Had Nitish ordered a probe, things would have been different," Lalu Prasad told reporters here.

The Godhra incident had led to widespread riots in Gujarat in 2002.

The former Bihar chief minister said Nitish Kumar cannot escape the responsibility for the riots in Gujarat. "Silence of Nitish Kumar on the issue as the railway minister tells a different story," he said.

Pointing out that it was he who ordered a probe into the Godhra incident when he became the railway minister, Lalu Prasad said: "It is a big question as to why Nitish Kumar did not order a probe into such a serious case."

His comments came a day after Nitish Kumar defended himself against allegations by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which blamed him for the 2002 Gujarat riots.

"I was railway minister then (in 2002) and my responsibility was the safety of trains, not to maintain law and order. It was the state government's responsibility," Kumar said here Tuesday after BJP leaders blamed him for the riots after he targeted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi without naming him.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief also said that Nitish Kumar lost once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove himself as a secular leader when after the Gujarat riots he did not quit as the railway minister in the National Democratic Alliance government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Nitish Kumar has repeatedly been targeted by Lalu Prasad for not ordering a probe into the burning of the train at Godhra in which over 50 people died.