RJD Leaders Getting Impatient With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Want More Say In Governance
Nitish Kumar has concentrated most powers in his hands, which is why the RJD ministers are up in arms.
Leaders of the Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the senior partner in Bihar’s ruling mahagathbandhan, are getting impatient with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s style of functioning and want more say in governance.
The primary grouse among RJD ministers and senior leaders is that they are not consulted by the Chief Minister in major administrative decisions and that Nitish Kumar has concentrated most powers in his hands.
It is well known that Kumar has an autocratic style of functioning and relies almost wholly on a core team of all-powerful bureaucrats to carry out his orders and implement his policies.
Ministers, even senior ones, have a limited role in his government and scheme of things.
Ministers have little say over the functioning of their own departments and it is the department secretary and other senior babus who wield the actual powers.
“Nitish Kumar has always run the government through a team of trusted IAS officers who carry out his orders and often override the department ministers. Ministers do not have a say in the transfers or postings of even mid-level bureaucrats like under-secretaries or section officers in their own departments,” former agriculture minister and BJP leader Alok Ranjan Jha told Swarajya.
RJD ministers and leaders feel that since their party is the senior partner in the ruling alliance with 79 MLAs as compared to the Janata Dal (United)’s total strength of 43, they ought to have a major say in governance.
“Nitish Kumar should realise that he is the head of the junior partner in the ruling alliance and should behave and act accordingly. He cannot function in the arrogant manner that he used to earlier and has to allow RJD ministers the freedom to run their own departments. He cannot take all decisions and concentrate all powers in his hands,” said a RJD minister who had a few run-ins with a senior bureaucrat of his department who is one of Nitish Kumar’s trusted IAS officers.
Another RJD leader told Swarajya that a few bureaucrats in the road construction, urban development and tourism departments that are headed by Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav often disregard their own minister (Yadav).
“These bureaucrats are members of the core team of Nitish Kumar and often take orders directly from the Chief Minister,” said the RJD leader who is close to RJD patriarch Lalu Yadav.
RJD leaders cite the case of the appointment of the state’s new Director General of Police (DGP) Rajwinder Singh Bhatti in December last year. While the RJD was keen on 1989 batch IPS officer Alok Raj being elevated to the top post, Nitish Kumar’s choice was Bhatti.
Bhatti belongs to the 1990 batch and was the junior most in the panel of three names that included Alok Raj and 1988 batch IPS officer Manmohan Singh cleared by the UPSC for appointment to the post of DGP.
The RJD, including Lalu Yadav and his son and heir apparent Tejaswi Yadav, was against Bhatti’s elevation to the top post because Bhatti is known to be a very honest, upright and no-nonsense officer who plays by the book. Bhatti had also gained a lot of fame for his daring arrest of RJD Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Sahabuddin from Delhi in November 2005.
Sahabuddin was a close aide of Lalu Yadav and enjoyed the latter’s protection. He was a dreaded don of Siwan, his Lok Sabha constituency, and law unto himself. Sahabuddin has been accused of murders, extortion and various other crimes and had been convicted in some of the cases.
Bhatti is also disliked by the RJD, which has always been comfortable with pliant police officers, because he arrested the then Mokama strongman and RJD minister Dilip Kumar Singh who was the prime accused in many cases ranging from murder to rioting. Bhatti was an additional SP at that time.
Dilip Singh’s brother and present Mokama legislator was convicted in June last year for illegal possession of arms.
Dilip Singh, also from the RJD, is also accused of many heinous crimes. Many in the RJD have criminal backgrounds and are accused in many crimes. The RJD fears that Bhatti will go after them as DGP.
The RJD feels that Bhatti will launch a crackdown on crime in Bihar and that would net many criminals who are closely associated with the RJD.
“Bhatti will not listen to politicians, including ministers and even the chief minister, and will play strictly by the book. Alok Raj would have been better as DGP,” said an RJD leader.
But Nitish Kumar had his way and Bhatti was appointed the DGP. This caused a lot of heartburn within the RJD and many within that party took it as a huge snub to Lalu Yadav by Nitish Kumar.
“It is not only the appointment of the DGP that has angered our leadership. Nitish Kumar has been functioning in a very arbitrary manner and has let it be known to our party’s top leadership that as long as he is the Chief Minister, he will have his own way and run the government as he deems fit,” a senior RJD leader who was a minister in fifth Nitish Kumar ministry (November 2015 to July 2017) and holds an organisational post now, told Swarajya.
Nitish Kumar has also angered the RJD with his steadfast opposition to the RJD’s repeated attempts to pack government corporations and boards with its members.
There are 38 such bodies in Bihar and they are traditionally headed by politicians nominated by the ruling party or alliance.
“The Chief Minister has kept the posts of chairmen of 25 of these 38 bodies vacant and has been consistently refusing to appoint persons of our choice to those posts. It is clear he is uncomfortable with RJD nominees as chairpersons of government boards and corporations. But he forgets that he is in power today because of the support he receives from the RJD,” said the former RJD minister.
Bihar has committees at the block and sub-divisional levels to oversee implementation of various government programmes. These committees are headed by nominees of the ruling party (or alliance).
Nitish Kumar, complain RJD leaders, has not finalised appointments to these committees which are powerful and have a say in allocation of resources to particular areas or categories of people.
RJD leaders say that the functioning of the government is suffering due to constant friction between RJD ministers and bureaucrats.
The state machinery, they say, is also in a limbo because many bureaucrats are lying low keeping in mind the planned shift of power from Nitish Kumar to Tejaswi Yadav later this year.
“Many bureaucrats want to do the RJD’s bidding with an eye on their future, but are wary of getting on the wrong side of Nitish Kumar who is known to be very vindictive against officers who get close to his political rivals. He wants all officers to be loyal to him and listen only to him. But officers are smart and they know that Yadav will take over the reins of government most probably later this year. So, they are playing it safe. As a result, governance is suffering,” BJP leader and former health minister Mangal Pandey told Swarajya.
RJD leaders privately admit that the growing instances of attacks on Nitish Kumar by their party colleagues is the outcome of increasing frustration of many over their lack of say in governance.
The latest such attack came from RJD national vice president and former Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary.
He regretted the RJD’s limited role in governance and called the Nitish Kumar government a ‘langdi sarkar’ (lame government). Choudhary also articulated the demand to lift prohibition. Many in the RJD have come out openly against Kumar’s liquor ban policy.
RJD MLA Bhai Virendra publicly asked Nitish Kumar to step down and hand over the reins to Tejaswi Yadav. He was articulating the popular demand among RJD leaders that Kumar gives up his post at the earliest.
But Kumar, a wily politician, has been ignoring all that criticism and calls for stepping down. After publicly hinting a few times last year that he would hand over the CM’s post to his deputy (Tejaswi Yadav), he has fallen strangely silent on this issue. At meetings with RJD leaders of late, he has been avoiding this topic
This has made RJD leaders impatient and even wary of his motives. No one in the RJD fully trusts Kumar and most are very suspicious of him.
But publicly, both the RJD and the JD(U) are adhering to the ‘all is well’ mantra. RJD national general secretary Shyam Rajak said that there is no tension among the allies in the mahagathbandhan.
JD(U) chief spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said that no RJD leader or minister is aggrieved over Nitish Kumar’s style of functioning. Good governance, he contended, has been Kumar’s strong point and the RJD appreciates it.
But the BJP asserts that conflicts and constant bickering have affected governance in Bihar. They say that matters can come to a head if Nitish Kumar does not step down soon.
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