Patna, Aug. 9: The Opposition has turned up the heat on chief minister Nitish Kumar for the dismissal of rural works minister Bhim Singh, who stirred up a storm yesterday with his remark that people join the army to be martyred.
The minister was chided by Nitish and he had to eat his words and apologise the same day.
The Opposition, though, is unmoved. “What is there to apologise about? The minister has used words which are unpardonable. Usko kaan pakad ke nikaal dena chahiye (he should be removed from the ministry),” RJD chief Lalu Prasad said.
Lalu alleged that the chief minister was trying to shield his minister and made it clear that the RJD would continue to press for his removal.
The RJD has reasons to gun for Bhim Singh. The minister, who was one of the founder-members of Nitish’s Samata Party, had deserted Nitish to join the RJD. It was Lalu who made him a member of the Legislative Council. However, even before his term was over, Bhim Singh switched loyalties back to Nitish and was rewarded with a ministry after the 2010 polls.
Bhim Singh, like Nitish, is an engineer who graduated from the Bihar College of Engineering (now NIT). Nitish has had his uses: Bhim Singh is known to be a loose cannon and recently was used by the chief minister to hit back at BJP leaders. After he left the RJD, he was used to launch attacks on Lalu.
The BJP, still smarting from the bitter divorce with the JD(U) in June when its ministers were dismissed by Nitish, is on the same table as the RJD in demanding Bhim Singh’s removal. “Nitishji is an expert in sacking ministers. Why is he quiet about Bhim Singh?” asked BJP leader Giriraj Singh.
The Congress, which has been cautious in its relations with the Nitish government post the NDA split, too joined the chorus. “Bhim Singh does not understand the meaning of martyrs. His apology is not enough. He should be removed from the ministry immediately,” said Congress spokesperson Umakant Singh.
Caught on the backfoot, Bhim Singh sought to put the controversy behind. “I have expressed regret and apologised. It is a closed chapter now,” he said.
However, much to the minister’s chagrin, not many JD(U) leaders have come out openly in his support. Only MP Shivanand Tiwari, known to shoot off the hip, blamed the BJP for trying to reap political gains from the issue.
Sources in the JD(U) said it would be difficult for the chief minister to initiate any action against Bhim Singh. “He belongs to the Chandravanshi caste, a part of the EBCs, who form the core group of Nitish’s voters. Without their support, Nitish cannot hope to win an election. If Bhim Singh is removed from the ministry, there is bound to be a hue and cry,” said a JD(U) leader, who did not wish to be named.