The Centre has withdrawn Lalu Prasad Yadav's Z plus VIP security cover of National Security Guard commandos, evoking angry reactions from the Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo and his two sons, who cried conspiracy, with one even threatening to 'skin' Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Lalu accused the Narendra Modi government of hatching a 'conspiracy' to frighten him so that he gives up his 'relentless fight for preserving communal harmony and social justice'.
The RJD chief, addressing a press conference in Patna, said, "Lalu is not someone who can be frightened into submission. The public of Bihar will protect me. But if anything happens to me, the Nitish Kumar government in the state and the Modi government at the Centre shall be jointly responsible."
His two sons -- Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav -- reacted angrily to the government's decision.
Tej Pratap, the elder son of the RJD boss, went ballistic, threatening to get Modi 'skinned'.
"They are hatching a murder conspiracy against him (Lalu)...If something happens to him, we will get the prime minister skinned (khal utarwa lenge)," an angry Tej Pratap Yadav told reporters outside the state assembly.
"If my father is killed who will take responsibility for this?" asked Tej Pratap, a former minister and sitting MLA.
When reporters said he was making derogatory remarks against the prime minister, he defended his comments and told the media persons to 'go and tell him (PM)'.
Asked about Tej Pratap's remarks, Lalu Prasad diapproved of the kind of language he used against Modi but noted 'the blood of anybody will boil if he finds his father at the receiving end of such a conspiracy'.
Tejashwi Yadav, the former deputy chief minister and the younger son of the RJD supremo, also attacked the Centre for downgrading Lalu Prasad's security.
"By downgrading his security, the Centre is trying to frighten Lalu, who is working towards opposition unity. This is very mean-minded politics on the part of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government," Tejashwi Yadav told reporters.
He also expressed apprehension that with a less strong security cover, the RJD chief had become vulnerable and 'now the Centre shall be held solely responsible if anything happens to Lalu'.
The former Bihar chief minister will now be given 'Z' category security and be guarded by an armed commando squad of the Central Reserve Police Force, in accordance with the protocol of the scaled down cover, official sources said in New Delhi.
Yadav will not have National Security Guard black cat commandos guarding him any more as they were withdrawn on Sunday.
The NSG only provides 'Z+' security cover. The decision was taken after the Union home ministry recently reviewed the threat levels of various VIP protectees, the sources said.
Hitting out at the central government, Lalu Prasad said, "We are the most vocal opponents of the Modi government which is driving the country towards dictatorship. Democracy is under threat."
"We have been fighting them resolutely. That is why my family and I have been implicated in so many false cases...so that we get scared of the possibility of going to jail and give up our fight," he said.
Lalu claimed that the decision to downgrade his security cover, which was provided to him under the United Progressive Alliance government, was another conspiracy by the Modi government to silence him.
"What else explains the move. They have not run short of security personnel. Every two-bit BJP leader enjoys Z plus security," the RJD chief alleged.
"I am travelling far and wide as part of my 'BJP bhagao, desh bachao' campaign. This has rattled the party which thinks that by making me worry about my own safety it will be able to contain me," he said, adding that he would not give up his fight.
Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Modi scoffed at the remonstrations over the scaling down of Lalu's security, saying, "Lalu se log darte hain...Lalu ko kisse dar lagta hai (People are scared of Lalu. Who does he fear?)'".
On Sushil Modi's jibe, Lalu retorted, "BJP leaders are always darpok (cowards)".
Besides Lalu Prasad, the Centre also decided to withdraw 'Z+' CRPF VIP security cover of former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
The Hindustani Awam Morcha president Manjhi told reporters, "I do not know on the basis of whose report the Centre has taken such a decision. I still face threat to my life."
Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha is a part of the NDA in Bihar.
Lalu Prasad also questioned the withdrawal of security cover of Manjhi, saying, "It is well-known that he faces threat to his life from naxals."
Tej Pratap's remarks against the prime minister come days after he made objectionable comments against Sushil Modi, threatening to disrupt the marriage ceremony of his son on December 3.
Citing security reasons, Sushil Modi changed the venue of his son's wedding to Veterinary College ground from Shakha field in Rajendra Nagar in the state capital.