| Rajiv Ranjan
Ranchi, May 22: Chief minister Arjun Munda today removed Jharkhand State Electricity Board chairman Rajiv Ranjan, betraying the impression that non-BJP ministers were holding his government to ransom.
Munda did, however, seek to counteract this notion by suggesting he was boss as he appointed a former pro-BJP bureaucrat of his choice, B.K. Chauhan, as the new head of the power utility.
Although energy minister Lalchand Mahto, who had been baying for Ranjan’s blood for months together, succeeded in his mission, Munda set aside the minister’s request to appoint H.B. Lal, said to be “very close” to Mahto.
Yesterday, Mahto, along with Samata Party ministers Jaleshwar Mahto and Madhu Singh, breezed through bureaucratic channels to deliver the file recommending the board’s reconstitution to the chief minister’s office.
Several parliamentarians and MLAs from the BJP had pressured the chief minister to let Ranjan continue while some were even said to have suggested a change in Mahto’s energy portfolio to end the deadlock.
Sources said Ranjan had been appointed on recommendations from the “highest quarters” in the central BJP and Samata Party, but Mahto’s principal demand, when he turned a rebel in the Babulal Marandi government, was to remove the JSEB chairman.
Earlier this year, Chauhan had opted for voluntary retirement to contest the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls on a BJP ticket. He lost and returned to Ranchi to lobby for an important assignment. The former IAS officer reportedly had the backing of senior BJP leaders who prevailed upon the chief minister to replace Ranjan with Chauhan.
Sources said Mahto today lobbied with the chief minister for more than two-and-a-half hours to make him sign on the dotted line. “Though the minister had recommended a panel comprising two of his close confidants for the post of the JSEB chief, the chief minister decided to have his own way,” they added.
Mahto denied he had exerted pressure on Munda. “I never threatened to pull down the government. These canards were spread by vested interests.”
Ranjan was incommunicado.
Mahto said within months of his appointment, Ranjan had fallen out with him, failing to meet the targets set by the energy department. “Since then, I had been pleading for a re-organisation of the JSEB and for sacking Ranjan from the top spot.
“There cannot be any misunderstanding between a master and his servant. Ranjan had put the energy department into disrepute. Against our commitment to electrify 1,380 villages in 2001-02, a paltry 360 villages were put on the power map as on March 31, 2002. Till date, only 800 villages could be electrified, though JSEB was given Rs 60 crore for rural electrification.”
Mahto alleged that contracts were granted for 52 power substations for “Rs 2.32 crore apiece, against the normal departmental rate of Rs 1.15 crore”.
Other members of the reconstituted power board include Tenughat Vidyut Nigam Limited adviser K.P. Sinha (generation and distribution), JSEB chief engineer Gopi Nath Munda (transmission) and director (accounts) Niranjan Rai (finance). S.. Akhauri, who was member (technical), is in rural electrification. Cecilia Merwar, member (finance), has been dropped.