Patna: Two days after the formation of the new National Democratic Alliance government led by Nitish Kumar, the opposition Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) launched a scathing attack over the appointment of corruption-accused Janata Dal United (JDU) MLA Mewalal Choudhary as the Bihar Education Minister.
After Left parties and the Congress objected to the appointment, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav asked if the government had provided an “exemption” in matters related to “corruption” and “looting”.
“The Chief Minister will continue his discourse on Crime, Corruption and Communalism to save his chair, as usual,” he added.
भ्रष्टाचार के अनेक मामलों में भगौडे आरोपी को शिक्षा मंत्री बना दिया।
अल्पसंख्यक समुदायों में से किसी को भी मंत्री नहीं बनाया।
सत्ता संरक्षित अपराधियों की मौज है। रिकॉर्डतोड़ अपराध की बहार है।
कुर्सी ख़ातिर Crime, Corruption और Communalism पर मुख्यमंत्री जी प्रवचन जारी रखेंगे।
— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) November 18, 2020
Tejashwi asked how Nitish Kumar appointed Choudhary, who has been accused of irregularities in the appointment of assistant professors and junior scientists at the Bihar Agriculture University (BAU) in Bhagalpur district when he was its vice-chancellor.
The RJD has attacked the CM for his “double standards”, saying that the “corrupt” JDU MLA was given a ministerial position by him. Calling Nitish Kumar a “patron of 60 scams”, the party said he was capable of plumbing to the lowest depths for the CM’s chair.
However, ignoring serious corruption charges against Mewalal, Nitish Kumar – who has repeatedly claimed that there has not been any compromise with corruption under his watch – appointed him as the education minister on Monday. The move came as a surprise as Choudhary had been expelled from the JD-U soon after an FIR was lodged against him in the same case. He was later reinstated in 2018 after he was granted anticipatory bail.
CPI (M) leader Arun Kumar Mishra said Nitish Kumar had begun his seventh term with the clear message that “corruption is not an issue for him. But we, the Left parties, will not sit silent over the Mewalal issue. We have demanded his immediate removal,” he added.
He said that the Left, which is part of the Grand Alliance, will also raise the issue in the assembly. Congress MLA Shakil Ahmad Khan said the party will expose the “double face” of the ‘double engine’ government and take up the case.
According to a report, an FIR was lodged against the minister on February 20, 2017 at the Sabour Police Station. It was done on the directive of then Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind (now President). Kovind had set up a probe committee after there were complaints by several applicants who alleged irregularities in appointments.
Choudhary had been reportedly booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code related to criminal breach of trust, forgery and conspiracy.
Following the incident, opposition BJP leaders demanded his arrest. However, now that the JD-U is an ally, the BJP has maintained its silence over the appointment.
Mewalal is the JD-U MLA from the Tarapur assembly seat. He joined the party in 2015 after his stint as the VC of BAU had ended.
In 2005, when Nitish had come to power with the BJP, the RJD, then in opposition, had raised the issue of corruption charges against Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was given a ministerial berth. Nitish had removed him immediately.
“But this time Nitish is silent in a similar corruption case against his minister. Times have changed and so has Nitish. He no longer bothers about corruption, crime or communalism; only his chair,” said Satyanarayan Madan, who heads Jan Pahal, a civil society organisation in the state.