Stifled CM takes lid off war within

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By JOY SENGUPTA
  • Published 30.08.14
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Patna, Aug. 29: The government of Bihar is at war, from within.

Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who has been indicating his dissatisfaction with the attitude of some of his colleagues, today said he was being stifled by his own finance minister.

“The finance minister and his department secretary tell me to live within limits. But I am a positive person and am not going to be intimidated by such moves,” he said without mentioning anyone by name. Manjhi was speaking at a state function organised to felicitate meritorious sportspersons of Bihar.

Finance minister Bijendra Yadav, however, refused to react to what Manjhi said. “I don’t know what the chief minister said and am also not aware of the context of his statement,” the minister told The Telegraph by phone before hanging up. Principal secretary Rameshwar Singh too was unavailable for comment.

The chief minister’s statement reflects the disarray in the government. Manjhi is still regarded as a “stop-gap” CM by many of his ministerial colleagues and some senior officials. Manjhi’s discomfort has been evident at review meetings and his janata durbar, which several ministers have often preferred to skip, something they didn’t dare do when Nitish Kumar was CM.

Recently, the efforts of the Speaker to grant an extension to the acting secretary was objected by the finance department despite the chief minister’s efforts. Manjhi has in the past tried to assert his powers by taking an independent stand on issues. But that still has not compelled ministers and even officials to take his dictate seriously.

The chief minister’s stinging remark came immediately after one of his cabinet colleagues — art, culture and youth affairs minister Vinay Bihari — spit venom against his own government, accusing it of not doing anything for sportspersons and sports.

“We keep asking our sportspersons to bring medals but we do nothing for them,” Bihari said. The minister, who appeared to have made up his mind to speak against the government, begged the chief minister’s apology before delivering his speech.

“My words may sound bitter and I apologise for it in advance but I am forced to speak the truth,” Bihari said.

A flummoxed Manjhi didn’t hide his anger against the minister. “You (read Bihari) are young but don’t just sing songs, instead focus on your work. You don’t need to tell me what’s wrong with the department. If the condition of sports is bad, you, along with your department, are responsible for it because you head it,” Manjhi said.

Bihari is a folk artiste and has to his credit several Bhojpuri song albums.

Earlier, venting his ire against the state’s bureaucrats, Bihari said the general administration department had suffocated all his efforts to fulfil the promise made by Nitish Kumar to provide jobs to deserving sportspersons.

“The general administration department principal secretary, D.S. Gangwar, refused to give me time when I requested time for a discussion. He blatantly said he would get back to me only after discussing the matter with the CM. Two months have elapsed but Gangwar has not bothered to speak to me on this issue,” Bihari said.

The function, christened “Khel Samman Samaroh”, was organised to felicitate 312 athletes of the state. One among them was Sikkim cadre IAS officer Ravindra Kumar, a native of Bihar’s Begusarai district, who scaled Mount Everest on May 19.

The confusion over felicitating Shreyasi Singh, a silver medal winner in this year’s Commonwealth Games, too was settled. Manjhi announced a cash award of Rs 11 lakh for her.

The chief minister, however, didn’t forget to put the minister in the dock. “The minister (Bihari) and his officials should have taken up the issue immediately after Shreyasi won a medal but they failed,” Manjhi said.