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Babus no-ball Lalu meet call

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Patna
  • Published 23.01.07
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Patna, Jan. 23: Time was when Lalu Prasad used to be “raja” of Bihar, with the entire state machinery at his beck and call although he held no government post.

In today’s Bihar, he is just another puffed-up Dilliwala.

State government officials today refused to attend a meeting called by the railway minister in New Delhi to discuss Bihar’s development.

Just over a year ago, most Patna bureaucrats would have kept dropping in at Lalu Prasad’s residence to pay obeisance, even without being summoned.

This time the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief had gone to the extent of attaching an explanation why he thought he had the right to summon the state civil service secretaries and other officials.

The January 28-29 meeting was to “discuss the progress of the Sam Vikas Yojana”, a central scheme, the communication sent through a Planning Commission deputy secretary said.

It explained that Lalu Prasad was authorised to call such a review meeting in his capacity of a Planning Commission member.

The Bihar development commissioner, R.J.M. Pillai, today wrote to the commission saying he and the other officials would brief it on the scheme’s progress at a “separate routine meeting”.

The letter said it would not be proper for the officials to go to a meeting called by a central minister on a subject concerning the state.

While Union ministers are ex-officio members of the plan panel, they are not expected to summon state officials, senior bureaucrats in Patna said.

Ruling Janata Dal (United) leader Shivanand Tiwary was scathing: “Lalu Prasad’s real intention is to strengthen his control over the state bureaucracy by calling such meetings. Many central ministers are ex-officio members of the Planning Commission. But has anyone ever summoned such a meeting?”

Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP said, “How can the railway minister convene a meeting of state officials on a development issue?”

The Centre had started the Sam Vikas Yojana in 2002 to speed up the development of roads, irrigation projects, bridges and the like in backward states such as Bihar.

It later stopped the funds — Rs 4,000 crore had been earmarked — as the project failed to take off in Bihar. Six months ago, new chief minister Nitish Kumar persuaded Delhi to resume payment.