The Telegraph
 
CIMA Gallary

Balancing act with new face

- Lesi entry with eye on Kosi & gender

Patna, March 11: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today inducted legislator Lesi Singh in his cabinet that had become bereft of women in the wake of the resignations of Parveen Amanullah last month and Renu Kumari Kushwaha yesterday.

“It was not looking nice having a cabinet without women. That is why I have inducted Lesi Singh in my council of ministers,” Nitish said soon after Governor D.Y. Patil administered Lesi, 40, the oath of office and secrecy at Raj Bhavan.

Lesi’s induction is the first since the JD(U)’s split with the BJP in June last year. Nitish said he would expand his ministry further after the Lok Sabha elections.

But it’s more than just gender balance that the chief minister has in mind. Lesi is a Rajput representing Dhamdaha, an Assembly segment that is part of the Purnea Lok Sabha constituency. Purnea’s sitting MP is Nitish’s “bitter critic” in the BJP, Uday Singh.

Nitish is believed to have tried to hit two targets with one arrow. Lesi is the widow of the once-dreaded ganglord of Kosi region, Butan Singh, who was gunned down in course of being taken to court from jail in February 2000. Her induction might assuage the bruised feelings of the militant Rajputs, who are believed to constitute Uday Singh’s core support base.

Moreover, Butan was also known as the Rajputs’ “saviour” from Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, who represented the equally militant Yadavs in the Kosi region. Butan’s daring murder was believed to have been the fallout of the raging war between his gang and that of Pappu Yadav, who has since been acquitted in the Ajit Sarkar murder case and has got an RJD ticket to contest from Madhepura in the Kosi belt.

By inducting Lesi in his ministry, Nitish has sent the message to Uday that the JD(U) cared for the Rajputs in the volatile region. Her induction also coincides with the rebellion of BJP MLA from Baisi (in the same region) Santosh Kushwaha, who has decided to fight against Uday in Purnea.

“Lesi’s induction coupled with Santosh’s rebellion might aggravate the troubles of the BJP nominee in Purnea,” said a JD(U) leader. “Lesi’s inclusion also might deter the Rajputs from siding with Pappu in Madhepura.”

The BJP’s Bihar unit is also facing dissent over the impending entry of Ram Kripal Yadav, the erstwhile confidant of Lalu Prasad. Ram Kripal is set to embrace the BJP tomorrow and could contest from Pataliputra, the contentious seat Lalu has decided to field daughter Misa from.

However, Nitish, who said the JD(U)’s list of candidates would be declared before Holi, is not without his own troubles. Two-time MP from Begusarai Monazir Hasan has communicated to the party leadership that he would not contest the polls from any seat other than Begusarai. The JD(U) is learnt to have given the Begusarai seat to ally CPI.

“I was asked to contest from Bhagalpur at the eleventh hour. I have told Sharad Yadav (JD-U president) that I will not contest any other seat in Bihar,” Monazir told The Telegraph.

BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi described Lesi’s induction as a “violation” of the model code of conduct, carried out to influence the voters of the region. Chief secretary A.K. Sinha said the ministry had been expanded using the governor’s “special power”.