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Bihar: BJP’s New State Party Chief was Sacked as Minister Over Underage Controversy

When Samrat Chaudhary was minister in the Rabri Devi cabinet in 1999, it was BJP and Samta Party who had demanded his removal on charges of ‘forgery’.
 Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

 Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Patna: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might have appointed Rakesh Kumar alias Samrat Chaudhary as Bihar party chief on Thursday, but 24 years ago, it was the saffron party that protested against him, resulting in his removal from the state cabinet as minister on charges of being underage. Chaudhary is currently a BJP MLC and leader of the party in the Legislative Council.

Then Bihar Governor Suraj Bhan, who was a senior BJP leader, sacked Chaudhary (in Nov 1999), who was minister of horticulture, weight and measurement in the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led government led by Rabri Devi ,wife of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, after the saffron party and Samta Party leaders raised the issue of his being underage.

It was reported then, that on the basis of a probe report in connection with his age, Bhan had directed the state government to lodge a case of fraud, forgery and misrepresentation against Chaudhary and sought recovery of salaries and allowances paid to him as minister. Chaudhary had reportedly displayed three different dates of birth in documents presented at different places.

Ironically, ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha elections, BJP has chosen Chaudhary to lead the party in Bihar, one of the states where the saffron party is set to face a big challenge from the ruling Mahagathbandhan, consisting of Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar, RJD of Lalu Prasad/Tejashwi Yadav, Hindustani Awam Manch of Jitan Ram Manjhi, Congress and Left parties.

Sources within the state BJP here said Chaudhary had been given command of the party in Bihar, a crucial state for the saffron party due to blessings from Union Home Minister Amit Shah. "Chaudhary is Shah’s choice. The party may project Chaudhary as the CM candidate in the 2025 Bihar Assembly polls to take on Nitish-Tejashwi if the party performs well in the next Lok Sabha polls", BJP sources told NewsClick.

Chaudhary has replaced Sanjay Jaiswal, who belongs to the Vaishya community, an Other backward Class or OBC, as he was considered neither aggressive nor seen as a strong leader, said party sources, not wishing to be named.

 Chaudhary joined BJP five years ago, in 2018. His father, Shakuni Chaudhary, a former army man-turned-politician and well- known socialist leader, was a minister and former MP. He is considered close to the Nitish-Lalu duo. Before joining BJP, Chaudhary was with RJD till 2014 and after that he was with JD-U.

Chaudhary, an OBC leader belonging to the powerful koeri community, in recent months started wearing a saffron turban and saffron gamcha to display his loyalty to the party, which has been promoting him to counter chief minister Nitish Kumar after he dumped BJP and joined hands with the Opposition Mahagathbandhan to form the government in August last year.

After that, the BJP has been eyeing to make a dent in the koeri community, locally known as kushwaha, support base of Kumar.  Kumar. Koeris along with Kumar's own caste kurmis, Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) and dalits are a strong social support base of Kumar. The koeri community is the largest social group after Lalu's caste (yadavs) in Bihar.

Similarly, the yadavs are also powerful OBCs, who along with Muslims, EBCs and dalits, are seen as the backbone of Lalu Prasad's social base since three decades.

Last month, a senior JD-U leader, Upendra Kushwaha, who revolted against Kumar, quit the ruling party and formed a new political party. He, too, belongs to the koeri community, and was said to be upset with Kumar for not promoting him on par with Tejashwi Yadav.

 Incidentally, Kushwaha, who has formed his own party, has given out enough hints that he may join hands with the BJP-led NDA ahead of the 2024 general elections.

The BJP, which unsuccessfully tried to split the yadavs, appears set to play the koeri card to minimise the loss of Kumar’s 16% popular votes in the next year’s Lok Sabha elections, say experts.

 "BJP understands this ground reality as it has to fight elections without Kumar's JD-U in Bihar. The BJP is a weak force in comparison to the combined force of Kumar and Lalu Prasad along with Congress, Manjhi and Left parties .Chaudhary’s elevation as BJP state president is a part of its strategy to make a dent in Kumar's base", D M D Diwakar, former director of A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna, told NewsClick.

However, Chaudhary is fast emerging as a face of the party's Hindutva champion replacing some vocal upper castes leaders if his recent statements are anything to count. This may not go down well with senior  party leaders, who have been looking to play a key role.

Soroor Ahmad, a political commentator, said: "This is not the first case of BJP making a U-turn. In another instance, it gave a ticket to R K Singh, former Union home secretary and the man, who as DM of Samastipur district arrested veteran BJP leader L K Advani on the directive of then CM Lalu Prasad. It was Singh who had also linked RSS with terror. But he was made Union minister in 2014, a year after he formally joined BJP in 2013."

However, upbeat over the new responsibility of BJP in Bihar, Chaudhary told the local media that the party-led National Democratic Alliance would repeat its performance in the 2019 polls in 2024.

"We will win all 40 Lok Sabha seats to set a record. Last time, we won 39 seats. I am confident that BJP will win the next Assembly polls in 2025 and will form the first BJP-led government in the state," he said.

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