The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nitish lands in language soup

New Delhi, May 19: Lok Sabha MP Brahmanand Mandal has once again complained about railway minister and fellow Samata Party member Nitish Kumar to the Prime Minister. The move is likely to upset the fragile peace in the party.

Mandal has alleged that Nitish used threatening language against the Patna correspondent of a national English-language daily for asking inconvenient questions. He wondered if this was not “subversion of democracy”.

Mandal had written to Atal Bihari Vajpayee on April 2 and 9 as well as May 10, alleging there were major railway scams afoot and demanded a CBI probe.

He alleged that “inferior and costlier” hydraulic re-railing equipment had been bought from a German firm. Mandal also said corruption had marked railway recruitment board appointments in Patna and that the construction of new rail lines had “circumvented and violated” rules.

In his latest letter, Mandal said Nitish’s threats showed how undemocratic he was. The MP said Kumar lost his temper when asked some unpalatable questions yesterday.

The newspaper quoted Nitish as telling its correspondent: “If you write this, I will not have any problem. But you may have (problems). Biharis may not tolerate this.”

The railway minister reportedly says: “… the media can write what it wants. Your paper is known for its anti-Bihar stories. You are coming from some other state and writing against Bihar. Can you do this in West Bengal or Kerala'”

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mandal said he was shocked at Nitish’s behaviour. “Ministers should work for protecting democracy,” he said.

In his letter, Mandal reminded Vajpayee that he had told him in the past that Nitish “has links with known Bihar mafia”.

The MP asked: “Should a Union Cabinet minister use such language or hold out such threats'”

Mandal accused Nitish of “fomenting rank regionalism and creating conditions for outbreak of regional riots in which Biharis working in other states will become victims”.

He gave newsmen copies of his earlier letters to Vajpayee in which he has alleged railway contracts were being awarded to the mafia.

Mandal had been suspended from the parliamentary party some months ago but the suspension was revoked recently in the wake of the George Fernandes-Nitish tussle. The party subsequently set up a disciplinary committee to look into the complaints against Mandal and fellow MP Raghunath Jha. Nitish suporters had sought the expulsion of both MPs.

Mandal wrote to the Prime Minister on April 2 complaining that Nitish was not keeping him informed about railway functions in his constituency. A week later, Jha and Mandal sent a joint letter alleging several railway scams. Another letter from Mandal followed on May 10.

Nitish has been embroiled in controversies ever since he took over as minister. Last year, his controversial bifurcation of railway zones had Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee fuming. The spate of railway accidents and the continuing Samata infighting has kept the minister on his toes.

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