Ranchi, Aug. 24: As a smiling Yogendra Sao took oath as minister in the Hemant Soren cabinet today, his party colleagues seethed in anger.
State Congress leaders are yet to get over the shock of the party high command choosing Sao, who has been known for his violent streak and is now embroiled in the 2010 Rajya Sabha cash-for vote scam.
Many called the move “suicidal”. Yet, they are not in a position to express their frustration in public as it would go against the party line.
“Our leadership has done just what our political adversaries wanted us to do. You promised clean faces, but you anointed, who is neck deep in corruption and scandals. One doesn’t know when Sao will be sentenced in one of these cases. But what’s more frustrating is that though we know that Sao is not fit to be a minister, we have to continue defending the party’s choice,” a disgruntled Congressman said.
According to sources, state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat is also not pleased with the high command’s decision. However, when asked to comment on the controversial choice, he said: “The central leadership must have carefully considered every aspect.”
An ardent fan of Amitabh Bachchan, the Barkagaon MLA seems to have imbibed the superstar’s “angry young man” stance made popular in movies like Zanjeer and Deewar. Referred to as a “rough and violent man”, Sao has the dubious record of losing his cool in public and slapping government officials on at least two occasions.
“He had slapped NTPC deputy general manager R.K. Singh in public in 2010 and thrashed Barkagaon BDO Rajballabh Singh black and blue in 2011. In both cases, the charges have been found to be true. He is also being tried for extortion. Then, there are several cases under the forest act,” a senior state official, who had once served in Hazaribagh, said.
Sao’s appointment goes against the Congress public pledge to steer clear of tainted faces in the ministry.
In 2010, Sao and other five MLAs from JMM, BJP and Congress were allegedly caught on camera, seeking money in exchange of votes in Rajya Sabha polls. Again in 2011, he was arrested in a case of extortion of local businessmen.
A senior Congress leader confided that Sao’s elevation to the cabinet came at the cost of Jamshedpur (West) MLA Banna Gupta, who also belongs to Vaishya community. According to him, Sao had the backing of two senior leaders — Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu and Subodh Kant Sahay.
Sao’s caste (Teli) also worked in his favour. The Central leadership is convinced that the Telis are mobilising into a political force with significant presence in a good number of Assembly constituencies. And Sao’s elevation will help the party tap into their votes.