The Telegraph
Thursday , February 6 , 2014

Suffocation chorus after minister exit

Patna, Feb. 5: Parveen Amanullah’s resignation as social welfare minister ostensibly because she had been stifled by the “system” has opened the floodgates, with past and present members of the cabinet venting their angst at the frustration they have had to undergo.

Amanullah has said her decision to quit was driven by the realisation that the “system” was “not delivering as effectively as she wanted it to be”.

Her rant prompted other leaders who have worked in both the Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi dispensations to come out against the “system”.

BJP leaders, who have been attacking Nitish on several grounds ever since the split last June, had thus far not spoken about these issues.

Former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi opened the lid today.

Accusing Nitish of running a highly centralised system in which only his diktats are followed, Modi said: “Even though I was the deputy CM, many of the files sent by me used to be returned from the CM’s secretariat with irrelevant queries. I was told that officials used to do so only after getting indications from the chief minister.”

Modi, while holding the post of deputy CM, headed key departments like finance and commercial taxes.

Though the BJP leader didn’t go into specifics, he maintained that there had been instances during NDA rule when files for inaugurating projects were not cleared by the CM’s secretariat to ensure that only he performed these chores to get people’s attention.

Yet another senior BJP leader, Nand Kishore Yadav, who held the portfolio of road construction in Nitish’s government, spoke out today though he had never uttered a word on the style of functioning of government while he was part of it or even after being shown the door in June last year.

“One of my files, which had been sent to the CM’s secretariat, was routed to the office of the chief secretary. I was shocked to know this when the file came back to me with a noting from the chief secretary. It should have gone to the CM’s secretariat. This example is enough to suggest how a minister is insulted while working under Nitish Kumar,” Nand Kishore told The Telegraph.

Even those in government now have begun complaining, though they did so under cover of anonymity.

“One has to work under a given system and that is how things work here,” remarked a minister.

The “system” that is so suffocating isn’t new in Bihar.

“People would laugh but it is a reality that I leaked a confidential report to the press for getting a news item published regarding a central project likely to go to Odisha as Bihar was not allotting land for it. I did so because Laluji was not paying heed to my repeated request for the project to be sanctioned by the Union agriculture ministry then headed by Bihar’s Chaturanan Mishra. I again approached him with newspaper reports regarding the same, following which he directed his principal secretary Mukund Prasad to get the work done. Believe me, the land for the project was allotted within four days,” recalled a former minister and senior RJD leader.

Also during the RJD days, a minister hailing from West Champaran district used to take the train to his Assembly segment because the roads were deplorable.

“I had written several times to the authorities for reconstruction of the roads but nothing was done. I used to listen to taunts of co-passengers in the train that here is a minister who cannot get even his own road repaired,” the minister said. Another junior minister stopped going to his office because the principal secretary of his department never came to his office when he called.

Some of Nitish’s cabinet colleagues did admit that not all was right with the system, but one had to live with it. “I have been fighting the system for the last forty years. She (Amanullah) got impatient in just three years,” said agriculture minister Narendra Singh.

“The system is not perfect and needs improvement. But within this system our government has been able to get good work done. As a minister it is my job to fight the system. Not run away,” added panchayati raj minister Bhim Singh.

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