First Nitish Wicket Down Before New Bihar Govt Opens Account

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A disastrous start of Nitish Kumar government as Human Resources Development Minister Mewalal Chaudhary had to resign in the wake of alleged corruption charges against him. — Photo courtesy: Hindustan

The incident once again exposed the double standards of both Chief Minister and BJP leaders of the state.

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India

PATNA — After the Pyrrhic victory in the recent Assembly elections in Bihar, the Nitish Kumar government got off to a disastrous start with Human Resources Development Minister Mewalal Chaudhary being asked by the Chief Minister to put in his papers within 72 hours of the oath-taking ceremony on November 16.

It was a self-inflicted wound which may take a long time to heal for the new government. At the same time, the incident once again exposed the double standards of both Nitish Kumar and BJP leaders of the state.

Mewalal, the second-term Janata Dal (United) MLA, was the Vice Chancellor (VC) of the Bihar Agriculture University, Sabour, in Bhagalpur district between 2010 and 2015. During the same period, his late wife, Neeta Chaudhary, was the MLA of the Janata Dal (United). The BJP was then a constituent of the National Democratic Alliance—actually till June 16, 2013. It was on this day that Nitish snapped 17-year old ties with BJP and sacked all its 11 ministers.

It was during Mewalal’s five-year tenure as the VC that assistant professor-cum-junior scientists were appointed. When Mewalal’s term as the VC ended in 2015, he joined the Janata Dal (United) and, in November the same year, was elected as the MLA from Tarapur in Munger district. He, in fact, replaced his wife as the party candidate.

Since Nitish was heading the Grand Alliance government– with RJD and Congress as partners—between November 20, 2015 and July 26, 2017, the then leader of Opposition, Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP, picked up the old issue of irregularities in the appointment of assistant professor-cum-junior scientists by the Bihar Agriculture University and sought the arrest of Mewalal, who had by now become an MLA.

What Sushil Kumar Modi chose to deliberately overlook is that in the first three of the five-year tenure of Mewalal as VC, BJP was very much a partner of Nitish government and was holding almost all the important portfolios. He himself was the deputy CM-cum-finance minister.

But as he wanted to score some political brownie points and corner the Grand Alliance government, Sushil Kumar Modi went on the warpath. It was the then Bihar Governor Ramnath Kovind, now the President of India, who appointed a retired Patna High Court judge to probe the matter. The inquiry committee indicted Mewalal and, on this basis, an FIR was lodged against him. Mewalal went underground and his party suspended him.

In the meantime, Nitish took a big U-turn and on July 27, 2017 made a homecoming to the NDA. Sushil Kumar Modi then put the matter on the backburner.

The same Mewalal once again was elected as the Janata Dal (United) MLA with open cooperation of BJP leaders and cadres. Not only that, a request for prosecution and charge-sheeting him has been pending for the last one year in Raj Bhavan for the sanction from the Governor, who also happens to be the Chancellor of universities of Bihar.

So everything went on smoothly with full knowledge of Nitish and Sushil Modi. However, the leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly, Tejaswi Prasad Yadav, kicked up a storm by tweeting that Mewalal was the same person against whom BJP had in the past raised a ruckus. The RJD leader called for his immediate dismissal and arrest. The CPI-ML, also a Grand Alliance constituent, threatened to take the matter to the streets.

In the meantime, a former IPS officer, Amitabh Kumar Das, openly demanded a probe into the death of Mewalal’s wife, Neeta Chaudhary, under mysterious circumstances last year. She died in a gas cylinder blast in Delhi. Mewalal, too, sustained injuries.

Though the Janata Dal (United) spokespersons are busy defending the Chief Minister, the latter has come under heavy fire in social media with netizens asking how he can overlook such a publicised episode and make Mewalal a minister. After all, it is the same Nitish Kumar who took no time to abandon Grand Alliance within days after the same Sushil Kumar Modi raised the issue of the alleged IRCTC scam and in which Tejaswi’s name had also figured.

Curiously, hardly any follow-up action has been taken in this case even though the names of several members of the Lalu Prasad family had come up.

In the same way, on November 24, 2005, Nitish Kumar asked Jitan Ram Manjhi to resign within a couple of hours after the oath-taking ceremony. Moments after Manjhi was inducted into the cabinet, Nitish learnt from the media that his name had figured in a scam when he was a minister in the previous RJD government.

Nitish then argued that he had zero tolerance against corruption. Manjhi was made a minister later when his name was actually cleared.

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