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Manjhi ready for climb up, goes hard on graft

- New CM directs officers to expedite probe into cases of corruption and financial irregularities

Patna, May 21: The new nameplate glistened with the name of Jitan Ram Manjhi, written in Hindi and Urdu. Staff members and employees of the secretariat looked busy and tense. One official sprayed fragrance of rose all around the portico.

At 11.25am, the officials sprang to attention as the carcade of Manjhi drew up. Following him were key officials in the chief minister’s office — principal secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, secretary Atish Chandra and special secretary Sanjay Kumar Singh.

Manjhi stopped to receive the guard of honour. Then, in the first departure from his predecessor, the 68-year-old Manjhi chose to climb the stairs, 44 of them, to reach his first floor chamber. Nitish Kumar preferred taking the lift.

“I do not mind walking up. I will take the stairs instead of the lift,” Manjhi told Anjani, who was ushering his new boss towards the elevator.

The rest of the entourage too had to follow suit. “Sir, we have developed a jogging track at 1 Aney Marg and you will love walking on that,” Anjani told the chief minister. Manjhi simply nodded and smiled.

He reached the first floor and straightaway entered his chamber, only to come out within a minute and head for the conference hall where secretaries and principal secretaries had gathered. Also present were chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha and director-general of police Abhayanand.

The meeting, which began at 11.30am and continued for about an hour, was a closed-door affair in which Manjhi, according to sources, listed his priorities.

An official who was present in the meeting said that the new chief minister had asked them to expedite corruption related investigation and also to go hard against those indulging in corrupt practices.

“The chief minister did not speak much because the introductory session took up much of the time as 42 officials were present. But whenever he spoke, he emphasised on corruption and asked officials to expedite investigations,” said the official. “The chief minister also emphasised on checking irregularities in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) list and allotment of houses under the Indira Awas Yojna.”

Later in the afternoon, Manjhi visited the residence of former chief minister Jagannath Mishra under whom Manjhi was minister in the Congress regime in the mid-80s.

If Manjhi began with a firm foot forward, his party continued to be wracked by dissent. JD(U) member of the Legislative Council Vinod Kumar Singh claimed that new faces should have been included in the ministry. He also claimed that many of the JD(U) leaders who worked against the party during the general elections have got a place in the new government.

“Our leader Nitish Kumar took the responsibility for the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections and resigned,” Vinod said. “If this is the case, then other ministers should also resign because they are equally responsible for the defeat. They have no right to continue as ministers in the new cabinet and it is very disappointing that once again they have been given charge.”