Bhagalpur (Bihar): Former RJD MP and criminal-turned-politician Shahabuddin was released from prison after 11 long years on Saturday to a tumultuous welcome by hundreds of cheering supporters.
And soon after he walked out of the Bhagalpur Central Jail, Shahabuddin stirred up a row by saying that his leader was RJD's Lalu Prasad, not Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
"My leader was Lalu Prasad, my leader is Lalu Prasad and my leader will be Lalu Prasad," Shahabuddin told the media.
"Nitish Kumar changes his stance according to the situation," he said. "He is not my leader. Lalu will always be my leader."
Senior JD-U leader Shayam Rajak countered that Nitish Kumar was the leader of entire Bihar.
Shahabuddin claimed that he was framed in criminal cases and politics had nothing to with the bail the Patna High Court granted him four days ago in a case related to the killing of a murder witness.
He is facing 35 criminal cases including murder, extortion and kidnapping. He was convicted in seven cases.
State BJP President Mangal Pandey said: "Shahabuddin's release has vindicated our stand that the state government is keen to leave the state at the mercy of criminals. BJP won't let this happen."
According to police, Shahabuddin came out of the jail at 7 a.m. and he left immediately for Siwan, his home district, in a convey that included hundreds of SUVs.
A large number of RJD supporters greeted him on the way.
His car first stopped in Khagaria district where slogan-shouting crowds greeted him. In Samastipur, a massive crowd showered him with flowers and garlanded his vehicles.
Shahabuddin said it was wrong to describe him as a terror-monger. "It was the court that sent me to jail and it is the court that has granted me bail. All this is part of the judicial process."
Celebrations erupted in his native village and other places organised by his supporters, mostly local RJD leaders and workers.
RJD legislator Hari Narayan Yadav said: "Bihar ke log unhe Bhagwan maante hain." (People of Bihar feel he is a god).
Shahabuddin's wife Hina contested two Lok Sabha elections when he was in jail from Siwan but without success.
Before his arrest in 2005, he was a Rashtriya Janata Dal MP - and a law unto himself. He was four times the RJD MP from Siwan - from 1996 to 2009.
Shahabuddin's rise as a muscleman began when he was elected an independent legislator. His terror in Siwan lasted for over two decades. But many also saw him as a Robin Hood.
He gained popularity after ordering Siwan's doctors and lawyers in the mid 1990s to stop charging patients and clients exorbitant fees.
He is said to have helped many poor people by providing dowry and cash for their daughters' wedding.
Amid this populist image, Shahabuddin was linked with the murder of political rivals, the most infamous being the killing of former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president Chandrasekhar in 1997.
Until the 2005 assembly polls, the campaign vehicles of other political parties were not permitted on the roads of Siwan. Rival party workers were scared even to put up posters in the north Bihar constituency.
The CPI-ML was the only political force in Siwan that openly challenged Shahabuddin. When no one else dared, CPI-ML leader Amar Nath Yadav contested the election against Shahabuddin at great risk to his life.
During President's rule, IAS officer C.K. Anil and IPS officer Ratan Sanjay, then the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of Siwan, cracked down on Shahabuddin, externing him from the district.
Shahabuddin was convicted for the first time in 2007 for the abduction of CPI-ML worker Chote Lal Gupta. Sentenced to life in prison, he was thereafter convicted in half a dozen other cases.
In May, he was shifted from Siwan to Bhagalpur Central Jail after the murder of journalist Rajdeo Ranjan in a busy market.