Rs 2 crore pay-up call in name of rally

The shadow of jungle raj has fallen on the much-vaunted Adhikar Rally scheduled for next Sunday with ruling JD(U) leaders and their cohorts allegedly demanding extortion money for the event.

A former MLA and JD(U) leader, Vijay Kumar Shukla better known as Munna Shukla, has been accused of allegedly demanding Rs 2 crore as extortion money for the rally from the director of a Bhagwanpur-based private engineering college in Vaishali district.

Such calls were common during the RJD rule in the state, but had diminished since 2005 when the NDA came to power.

Shukla, whose wife Annu Shukla is a JD(U) legislator from Lalganj ' the seat once represented by her husband, is currently lodged in the Shaheed Khudiram Bose Central Jail at Muzaffarpur following his conviction for the murder of former Bihar minister Brij Bihari Prasad.

Annu Shukla, however, rebutted the allegations against her husband. "The entire story is concocted. There is a conspiracy to defame my husband," she told The Telegraph after attending a party workers' meeting at Bhagwanpur to garner support for Sunday's rally.

Sant Lal Yadav, director (HR) of Patna Sahib Group of Colleges, lodged an FIR on October 27 (Saturday) with the Bhagwanpur police station against Shukla.

Yadav, in his complaint, a copy of which was also sent to chief minister Nitish Kumar, alleged that he received threat calls on October 26 (Friday) on his mobile number.

The caller, who introduced himself as Munna Shukla, demanded Rs 2 crore for organising the Adhikar Rally, Yadav said.

The caller said that he (Shukla) had been asked by the party to cough up Rs 7 crore for the rally in Patna. Yadav said he received the threat calls from two mobile numbers ' 99340 00005 and 94700 00001 ' around 1.06pm on Friday.

Calls to both numbers failed to get a response as the phones were switched off all day on Sunday.

Yadav claimed he had been receiving threat calls from Shukla since he started construction of the building for the college.

"Since we are outsiders, Shukla has been creating hurdles in setting up the college, which is committed to imparting quality education to students belonging to economically backward sections," he said.

Apprehending threat to his life and family, Yadav said Shukla should be held responsible if anything untoward happened to them.

Vaishali superintendent of police Upendra Sinha confirmed the lodging of an FIR (No. 220/12) against Shukla under sections 382, 506 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code. Sinha, when contacted on phone, said a special team has been constituted to probe the case.

"I have already sent a police team to Muzaffarpur to inquire about the recovery of a mobile phone and a mobile charger from the central jail there during a raid on a prisoners' ward on October 27," Sinha told The Telegraph.

The mobile set did not have any SIM card.

The SP said the police would interrogate Shukla if the need arose.

Muzaffarpur district magistrate S.K. Mall said he received a call on his mobile phone around 10am yesterday. The caller, who requested that his identity not be disclosed, said he was being harassed by a person called Munna Shukla who was lodged in Muzaffarpur jail.

The official took serious note of the complaint and directed senior deputy collector Ajay Kumar to conduct a surprise inspection of the prisoners' ward.

The raid yielded a mobile phone and a charger from a ward in which Shukla, along with three others identified as Ram Dayal Choudhary, Vinay Thakur and Deepak Chaurasia, is lodged.

"None of the jail inmates owned up to the seized mobile," said a member of the raiding team.

JD(U) state president Bashishtha Narayan Singh skirted the issue, saying he was busy with organisation work. "Contact me later," he said.