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Rift Samrat only minister dismissed on age grounds

Patna, Feb. 25: Samrat Choudhary alias Rakesh Kumar — the man who engineered the split in the RJD — is the only person in India to have been dismissed from the ministry for being “underage”.

Parbatta MLA Samrat, the son of then Samata Party MP from Khagaria Shakuni Choudhary, was inducted in Rabri Devi’s cabinet in 1999 despite not being either an MLA or an MLC. He was rewarded for the loyalty-switch of his father and mother Parvati Devi, the then Parbatta MLA.

Parvati and Shakuni — an influential Kushwaha leader then — tilted towards Lalu Prasad’s RJD. In return, their son Samrat was given the portfolio of weight and measurement — a department he knew nothing about.

Samrat drew ire of then Samata Party leaders for his parents’ loyalty change. Then Samata Party MLC P.K. Sinha petitioned the then Governor, V.C. Pande, claiming that Samrat was underage. Sinha attached an affidavit filed by Samrat in a criminal case claiming that he was underage.

According to Samrat’s affidavit filed in the court, he was not 25 — the minimum age to be a minister — then. Samrat was dismissed three days before he completed six months in the ministry (the period within which a minister should become a member of either the Assembly or the Bihar Legislative Council) on age grounds.

The then governor also ordered to recover from Samrat the salary and perks he drew as a minister.

Nearly 15 years on, Samrat is the RJD’s Parbatta MLA. The ambitious legislator virtually tried to emulate his father’s loyalty-switch in 1999 by engineering a split in the RJD in 2014.

“Samrat is highly ambitious. He never concealed his ambition to become an MP from Khagaria,” an RJD leader said.

Samrat has been critical of Lalu’s leadership in private talks. “Laluji never found time to talk to his MLAs in the past eight months. Even a panchayat-level Congress worker gets a better reception at Laluji’s home than an RJD MLA,” Samrat reportedly told his aides.

The tall and handsome MLA from Parbatta has performed reasonably well inside the Assembly in asking questions. Lalu made him the chief whip of the RJD in the House. But Samrat was frustrated after he learnt from sources that the RJD would give the Khagaria seat to the Congress, prompting him to script the split in Lalu’s party.

The parting of the JD(U) and the BJP provided Samrat the platform he was looking for. The JD(U) was on the lookout for MLAs to shed the “minority government” tag.

After Upendra Kushwaha — another influential Kushwaha leader — joined the BJP, the JD(U) was desperate to get a Kushwaha leader on board. “Samrat fit the bill perfectly,” a JD(U) leader said.

The ruling party was trying to split the RJD and get the support of its 15 MLAs for the past six months. But the RJD leader in the Assembly, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, frustrated its attempts after Lalu reportedly assured him that he would be given a Lok Sabha ticket either from Darbhanga or Madhubani.

It was the compulsion of Lok Sabha elections which made the JD(U) execute its operation sooner than expected. On Sunday, Samrat went to his constituency Parbatta in a chopper with chief minister Nitish Kumar and praised the latter in a public meeting.

Denying that he was joining the JD(U), Samrat later said he was with the chief minister because the programme was in the constituency he represented.

A day on, he was on the forefront of the split. Samrat could be rewarded with a Lok Sabha seat or a place in the expanded ministry, this time for switching loyalty himself. The once under-aged minister knows he is safe now because the Speaker’s notification would ultimately go to the court.


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