Ranchi, July 19: HRD minister Bandhu Tirkey on Thursday joined health minister Bhanu Pratap Sahi in criticising the UPA government. It has failed the people of the state, said Tirkey, echoing Sahi’s statement that the state is paying the price for having a “weak” chief minister.
Both Tirkey and Sahi indicated their willingness to quit the ministry and blamed chief minister Madhu Koda for not cracking the whip on bureaucrats and for stalling pro-people decisions.
Sahi, who had earlier walked out of a cabinet meeting this week and failed to attend a UPA meeting yesterday at the chief minister’s residence, told The Telegraph today, “Our government has not taken a single decision during the last 10 months which benefited the people of the state.”
“If Sonia Gandhi, Lalu Yadav or Shibu Soren ask us about our achievements in these 10 months, we will have no reply. This government has done nothing for the masses,” said the minister bitterly.
While the ministers have been pulling in different directions, this is the first time one of them has publicly condemned the government. Sahi’s outburst created ripples in political circles, strengthening speculation that the government’s days are numbered.
Sahi claimed he has already offered “voluntary retirement from the ministry”, confirming that he has not resigned. “There are other able legislators in the UPA coalition who can replace me. It is now up to the chief minister to take a decision to give his nod so that I can quit the ministry,” the health minister said.
The 33-year-old minister faces disqualification proceedings in the Assembly for defying a whip issued by the Forward Bloc. But his outburst may or may not be linked to any inkling he might have received about losing his Assembly seat. Indeed, even if he is disqualified, he can still continue to remain a minister for six months, a period during which he can get re-elected to the Assembly.
The outburst, therefore, is far more likely to be in the nature of a rebellion. Sahi confirmed such suspicion by claiming that three of his cabinet colleagues, namely deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi, HRD minister Tirkey and rural development minister Anosh Ekka, are also unhappy with the performance of the government. They too, he said, are toying with the idea of quitting the ministry.
Explaining why he had walked out of the cabinet meeting, Sahi said: “In that cabinet, over 50 proposals came for approval but none of them were pro-people. What is the use of allowing a shopping mall on a ground that is named after a great personality (read Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi). Will the three crore population benefit from that mall'”
But a proposal to enhance old age pension from Rs 200 to Rs 400 is yet to be placed before the cabinet for approval, he complained, though he had forwarded it three months ago. More than three lakh beneficiaries, he claimed, would have benefited had the pension been increased.
Koda alone, he agreed, should not be blamed for the failure of the UPA government. “It is true that there is collective responsibility. But as head of the government, the chief minister should have been stronger and cracked the whip on erring bureaucrats. But he is such a weak chief minister,” lamented Sahi.