RJD strongman Mohammad Shahabuddin on Saturday walked out of prison on bail after 11 years with much fanfare and praised party chief Lalu Prasad while making it clear that there was no love lost between him and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
"For me Lalu Prasad is the leader" and Nitish Kumar is the chief minister "circumstantially", said the controversial leader, who has been a four-time MP from Siwan, as he emerged out of the Bhagalpur divisional jail and left in a convoy of three hundred vehicles for Siwan.
Shahabuddin, who is a member of RJD National Committee—the top decision making body of the party—and is known to be close to the RJD chief, said categorically that he never enjoyed good relations with Kumar.
Various pending cases against Shahabuddin were reopened and he was sent to jail after Kumar had assumed power in 2005.
He was, however, quick to add that it was the court which sent him to jail and the court again which ordered his release from the jail.
Shahabuddin had got final reprieve on Wednesday when Patna High Court granted him bail in a case of murder of a witness in the 2004 killing of two brothers in Siwan. He had got bail in nearly 12 other cases earlier.
Shahabuddin was accorded a grand reception by his supporters and RJD workers. He was welcomed by RJD Lok Sabha MP from Bhagalpur, Shailesh Kumar alias Bulo Mandal, at Jehangir Chowk in Bhagalpur and by other supporters at Naughachia in the same district.
Shahabuddin said for him Lalu Prasad is the leader and "We all are standing solidly behind him."
He said after reaching Siwan he would meet the family of journalist Rajdeo Nandan, who was shot dead recently.
Shahabuddin's close associate Laddan Mian is in jail in connection with the scribe's murder and though the inquiry into it has so far not named the RJD strongman, he was shifted to Bhagalpur divisional jail from Siwan a little after the incident.
The Nitish Kumar government had recommended CBI probe into the murder on demand of the scribe's family.
Asked by newsmen whether his prolonged jail term had harmed him politically, Shahabuddin said, "A little damage has happened."
His wife Heena Sahab lost to Om Prakash Yadav of BJP in the last parliamentary election from Siwan in 2014.
Asked how he spent his time in jail, the RJD leader said he is an avid reader. "Out of four cartons I am taking back from jail, two are full of books which I read during my stay."
To a question on senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi's allegation that the Grand Secular Alliance government had paved way for his release as RJD is the major partner in it, Shahabuddin said, "There is no need to take Sushil Modi seriously."
"During his early days in Bihar Assembly in the 1990s I remember he used to speak very incoherently leaving deskmen in trouble as to what actually he said. Now he speaks properly and is good in giving news to mediaperson by telling unsubstantiated facts," he said.