| Ranchi legislator C.P. Singh joins a protest outside the Assembly on Tuesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, Aug. 21: Dissatisfied with chief minister Madhu Koda describing Vinod Sinha as one of his many acquaintances, the NDA today decided to press for a CBI inquiry into the disproportionate assets acquired by Sinha, accused by the NDA of being a crony who has benefited by his association with the chief minister.
Koda’s attempts in the Assembly to be facetious only served to infuriate the opposition more. The chief minister, in a pointed reference to former chief minister Arjun Munda’s proximity to a contractor from Jamshedpur, Amarpreet Singh Kale, quipped, “Aapke zamane mein bhi Kale, peele, gore log the” (your regime too had its share of contractors like Kale and others).
Forgetting for a moment that he himself was a minister in Munda’s cabinet till the NDA government fell, Koda innocently pointed out, “But we never made an issue of Kale or raised it in the House.”
In response to the Opposition clamour for a statement on his relationship with Sinha, Koda claimed that as a politician he has a large circle of acquaintances and Sinha is just one of them. Yes, Sinha happens to be a businessman and he hails from the chief minister’s home-district. But then there is no law that prevents people from pursuing business interests, he declared.
With Sinha a permanent fixture in the chief minister’s residence and visitors often claiming to be told, by both Koda and his personal staff, to meet Sinha with their grievances, the explanation carried little conviction or credibility.
Koda’s dig at the opposition for raising the issue on the basis of “mere” newspaper reports also came in for scathing criticism. Former Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari exclaimed that a majority of the questions raised in the House were in response to media reports.
Incensed at the chief minister accusing them of wasting precious time of the House, opposition leaders dared Koda to order a CBI inquiry into Sinha’s assets. Such an inquiry, they insinuated, might implicate the chief minister too, hinting at Sinha being the “front” for managing wealth possibly acquired by the chief minister himself.
BJP legislator Sarayu Roy wondered how Koda could possibly claim Sinha to be a mere acquaintance. Sinha, after all, had issued a cheque to buy a house for Koda, the BJP legislator pointed out. And the broker had lodged a case against both Koda and Sinha after the cheque had bounced, he recalled.
Opposition leaders claimed the chief minister had tried to mislead the House by concealing facts and by giving confusing statements on his relationship with Sinha.
Instead of clearing the water, Koda has muddied it further, alleged Arjun Munda. “It is not just about an individual but about an individual making use of his proximity to the chief minister to secure mining lease for various people and to plunder resources of the state through dubious companies,” declared the former chief minister.
The Sinha issue continued to reverberate in the Assembly for the second consecutive day even as the House “passed” by voice vote the supplementary budget in the post-lunch session. With NDA resolving to press ahead for a CBI probe, tomorrow’s session of the Assembly is also expected to be stormy.