The Statesman
Manoj Chaurasia

PATNA, 28 NOV: Even as Bihar chief minister Mr Nitish Kumar has set his priorities for the new government with full commitment to “restoring law and order, good governance, food security, education, and checking corruption” in his second term, quite a number of ministers with doubtful credentials and criminal antecedents facing charges as serious as theft, attempt to murder and forgery, have been allowed to get berths in his Cabinet. 

Interestingly, of the total 28 ministers having been accommodated in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet, at least six are those who face charges like theft (IPC Section 379), attempt to murder (307), cheating (420), forgery (467), and rioting (147), according to a report of the National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, NGOs working for electoral reforms in the country which analysed affidavits of the ministers filed with the Election Commission. Strangely, their doubtful credentials were not properly checked, or may have been intentionally ignored, unlike Mr Kumar’s previous tenure when many of his ministers were instantly dropped from his Cabinet the moment the CM was informed that their names figured in criminal or corruption cases.

This time, however, such rules were liberally given a go-by for reasons best known to the chief minister. Take, for example, the case of JD-U leader Mr Gautam Singh (total assets Rs 60 lakhs), who has found a berth in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet. The problem with him is not that a man with a matriculation degree has been given the charge of the key science and technology department, the issue here is that he faces serious charges like “theft, attempt to murder and rioting” with IPC sections like “144, 147, 188, 224, 225, 307, 323, 332, 341, 353, 379, 504 and 511 having been applied against him. Quite the same charges like theft and rioting are pending against another JD-U leader Mr Awadesh Prasasd Kushwaha (total assets Rs 34 lakh) who has been made minor irrigation and sugarcane minister.

Even more serious look the charges against Mr Sunil Kumar Pintu (total assets Rs 1 crore) who has been made tourism minister in the new NDA government from the BJP quota. Mr Pintu faces charges like “cheating and dishonesty in delivery of property, forgery of valuable security, will etc. and using as genuine a forged document or electronic record”. Similarly, the JD-U leader Mr Shayam Rajak (total assets Rs 63 lakh), RJD chief Mr Lalu Prasad’s former Man Friday, who has been given the charge of a key portfolio, food and civil supplies, faces charges like “attempt to murder, rioting and wrongful confinement for three or more days”.

Likewise, the BJP leader, Mr Janardan Singh Sigriwal (total assets Rs 8 lakh), who has been made labour resources minister, faces charges like “rioting, concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war, illegal payment in connection with an election and mischief causing damage to Rs 50 note”. Yet another BJP leader Mrs Sukhda Pandey (total assets Rs20 lakh) faces the charge of “joining unlawful assembly with deadly weapons)”. Apart from them, there are many ministers who face charges under IPC sections.

The developments have come as a rude shock to those expecting good governance from the current regime. The move is in sharp contrast to Mr Kumar’s earlier policy when many of his ministers were summarily sacked the moment their names figured in any case of crime and corruption. They included Mr Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mr Ramanand Prasad Singh, both having cases of corruption against them. Of them, Mr Manjhi was one who was dropped from the Cabinet minutes after he took oath as a minister with the chief minister at Gandhi Maidan on 24 November, 2005. Both were re-inducted into the Cabinet only after they were absolved of charges by the court. 

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