Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nitish Kumar: A story in constrast

Manoj Chaurasia in Patna

Contrast is only too stark to be perceived now. 

In his first term as the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar had fired one of his ministerial colleagues Jitan Ram Manjhi moments after he had taken the oath ~ even the portfolio had not been allotted to him ~ merely on the information that the man he had given the berth in his cabinet was an accused in the degree scam! Then he effected a massive reshuffle in the state administration, giving key postings to the honest and efficient officials and shunting out bureaucrats of questionable integrity. All these actions were on display shortly after Mr Kumar had taken oath as the new chief minister of Bihar, ending the 15-year-old rule of Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal.  

Barely seven years into power, such “dare-devilry” seems to have become a thing of the past now as the NDA government that Mr Kumar heads in Bihar has come under fire for its questionable actions. Mr Kumar who earned the respect as an honest and upright politician is now being routinely accused, by the masses and his adversaries alike, of rewarding “inefficient” officials, victimising those launching crackdown on corrupts and publically praising leaders with criminal background. And, the Madhubani firing incident in which at least three youths were gunned down by the police who resorted to indiscriminate fire to quell an unruly protesting against police’s insensitivity to hand over body of the youth to the grieving family members, is only a pointer to the fact!

Following heavy protests by the protesting crowd who resorted to large-scale arson and violence on Friday to protest administrative high-handedness, the chief minister Mr Kumar ordered for immediate shifting of all the senior civil and police officials from the district, such as the district magistrate, superintendent of police and also inspector general of police, Darbhanga Range under which jurisdiction the entire incident took place, apparently holding them responsible for administrative lapses. 

Hours after they were given marching orders, two of the officials ~ IG Rakesh Kumar Mishra and SP Saurabh Kumar ~ were given promotions. Mr Mishra, however, said his promotion was long overdue, asserting that he had an impeccable track-record. "Never in my 26-year-long career, I compromised with ideals and professional ethics", said Mr Mishra, looking quite aggrieved at what was written about him in the local media in the aftermath of Madhubani firing incident. According to him , he has the distinction to serve at places like Kaimur, Nawada, Deoghar, Betia, Aurangabad, Jamshedpur and Bhagalpur (before proceeding on central deputation) in his long illustrious career. He has also been given three medals by the President of India ~ gallantry medal, meritorious medal and distinguished medal for his remarkable job, he informed. 

Right since the beginning, the police had been claiming that the headless body of the youth did not belong to that of "missing" youth Prashnat and the recovery of the boy has only vindicated the stand of the police. Mr Mishra said certain newspapers had carried factually incorrect reports about the recovery of the headless body which aroused public outcry leading to rioting in Madhubani as the police were forced to open fire on the unruly mob. 

The message has not gone down well even within the BJP, coalition partner, in the government. “Transfer is no punishment. The government will have to initiate severe actions against the erring officials to ensure faith of the common men is restored in the system”, remarked a BJP lawmaker Rameshwar Chaurasia. Another senior BJP leader and parliamentarian Bhola Singh went even more ballistic at the Nitish Kumar dispensation alleging that the government was totally unable to protect lives of the common men.

It was not the first time that the actions of the chief minister have come under question. Earlier, the chief minister had fired the excise minister Jamshed Ashraf merely after he spoke of a Rs 500 crore scam in the excise department and pointed his accusing fingers towards the then excise commissioner N Vijayalakshmi. Curiously, instead of initiating actions against the excise commissioner, the government sacked the minister itself! 

As of now, Mrs Vijayalakshmi, husband of a most powerful IAS official S Siddharth now secretary to the chief minister, is an agriculture secretary in the government. Her clout is underlined from the fact that she was asked to coordinate the function marked for the launching of agriculture roadmap of Bihar by the President Mr Pranab Mukherjee at the local SK Memorial Hall here on 3 October.

The role of the chief minister again came under question after his government suspended an IPS official Anusuiya Ransingh Sahu who as the SP of Sheikhpura district had launched a massive crackdown on mining mafia and lodged as many as 150 cases against the stone quarrying mafias between March and September this year and also busted a liquor racket. It is alleged the government acted under pressures from a particular caste who is said to be the traditional vote-bank of the NDA. According to the official, the DGP’s logic behind her suspension is classic ~ “illegal gratification by bodyguards in her name”. “If I can be punished for the faults committed by my subordinates, then why not the DGP on similar grounds?” she asks.

What is even stranger is the move of the chief minister to openly shield a criminal Ranvir Yadav who snatched a carbine from police and fired in the air to make way for Mr Kumar from the angry mob protesting against him during his visit to Khagaria district earlier this month. While the state administration has arrested persons protesting against the CM and sacked cops who failed to maintain law and order during CM’s visit to Khagaria town, the police have not initiated any action against Yadav who openly fired from a police carbine and even beat up the mob from lathis till date. As the government has virtually given a “clean chit” to Yadav, notorious husband of JD-U lawmaker Poonam Devi, a local resident had to register a case against him in the court of the chief judicial magistrate.

Curiously, the chief minister himself had publically praised the Yadav couple for his bid to “save” him and allow him address Adhikar rally there. Yet another move of the chief minister to stay in the house of Kaushal Yadav, a notorious gangster, in course of his Adhikar yatra at Nawada has not gone down well within the masses. During his earlier yatra, Mr Kumar had lunch at the residence of another alleged gangster Dhoomal Singh in Saran district.

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