| Chief minister Nitish Kumar and the bungalow of former animal and fish resources minister Giriraj Singh at 15 Kautilya Marg. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
The government is likely to play on the patience of former BJP ministers in the context of the bungalow-vacate notice the way chief minister Nitish Kumar had done with his predecessors at 1 Aney Marg.
“The department issued them (former BJP ministers) the notice to vacate the bungalows on August 18. We hope they will abide by the law, vacating the houses soon,” building construction minister Damodar Rawat said, suggesting that the government was in no mood, as of now, to evacuate the sacked ministers forcibly.
Sources close to Nitish revealed that the chief minister was opposed to using force on his former cabinet colleagues to vacate their houses. “They (BJP ministers) are expecting policemen to descend on their houses and evacuate them so that they could earn people’s sympathy. We are not going to play ball with them,” an official revealed, adding: “They will have to leave the way Lalu and Rabri left 1 Aney Marg after staying for over five months after losing power in 2005.”
Nitish has, so far, not reacted to his former cabinet colleagues’ acerbic words after they were slapped notices. “We will not abide by Nitish’s Tughlaqui farmaan. He has acted like a dictator by issuing the house-vacation notice prior to arranging legislators’ flats for us,” former minister Ramadhar Singh said. Giriraj Singh and other ministers, too, used adjectives like dictator and arrogant for their former boss. The department has issued notice on eight ministers to vacate the bungalows.
Dubbed “silent killer” by many of his detractors, Nitish had used a similar ploy on Rabri and Lalu after he was sworn in as the chief minister on November 24, 2005. After he was elected the chief minister, the building construction department, headed by Monazir Hasan, issued the notice to Rabri to vacate 1 Aney Marg by December 21, 2005.
Lalu and Rabri had created what Arun Sinha has described in his book Nitish Kumar and the rise of Bihar, as gwala (pastoral) estate with khatal (over 60 cows), murgi ghar (enclosure for poultry) and gobar than (cow dung yard). To the horror of officials, the couple added to the number of cows taking them to 100 and expanding the bhusa ghar (fodder store) accordingly after receiving the notice to vacate it.
On why they were not vacating the house, Lalu had then said what resembles with the sacked BJP ministers’ version now: “He (Nitish) has not allotted Rabri a proper house before giving her notice to vacate 1 Aney Marg.”
After the 10 Circular Road (Rabri’s present house) was done up and she was asked to occupy it, Lalu had said: “Kharmas (inauspicious month) had set in. No one undertakes any new venture during kharmas.”
Nitish, on the other hand, began operating from the state guesthouse across the street of 1 Aney Marg. Asked when he would move to 1 Aney Marg, an earmarked house for the chief minister, Nitish would smilingly say: “Please do not ask me about the new house. I shall shift to 1 Aney Marg after they (Rabri-Lalu) vacate it.”
Despite his soft demeanour, Nitish would make it abundantly clear that he would shift to 1 Aney Marg only. Political leaders then conjectured that Lalu might be expecting Nitish to evacuate him forcibly to earn the people’s sympathy or he might be thinking that Nitish would eventually get a new house allotted for him. But Nitish did nothing of the sort.
Rabri and Lalu eventually succumbed to Nitish’s patience and perseverance, vacating the bungalow in April 2006, the house that they had occupied for 15 years.
Seven years down the line, 1 Aney Marg has a completely new look — modern meeting halls, gazebos in lawn, ayurvedic plants, peepal tree to attract Buddhist tourists and computer-fitted offices.
The Nitish government seems to have adopted similar tactics for the dethroned BJP ministers. Asked about Giriraj’s plea as to who would replace them in the houses when Nitish had not expanded his ministry, Damodar Rawat said: “Expanding the ministry is not their (sacked ministers) business. They should adhere to the notice by vacating the houses. They have to do it today or tomorrow.
Only the future will tell if the sacked BJP ministers stick to what they have been saying or leave the houses the way Lalu and Rabri had.