Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad Yadav, who has been convicted in the fodder scam, is slowly but surely donning the role of “Super Chief Minister” in Bihar.
According to Patna-based political observers, with 81 MLAs of the RJD against 70 of the JDU in the Mahagathbandhan government, Lalu Prasad is literally controlling the Bihar government led by Nitish Kumar.
“He is playing the dual role of big brother to Nitish Kumar and the super CM of Bihar despite not being either a parliamentarian or a legislator. Laluji seldom misses any opportunity to call Nitish his chhota bhai,” a JDU legislator requesting anonymity said. Patna-based government officials admitted that Lalu was not just giving instructions to officials in the state secretariat, but he was even “interacting” with officials in the “field”.
The fact that his instructions were being strictly followed was evident on Wednesday when the Director in Chief of Health Services, Bihar, issued a circular to civil surgeons and superintendents of government hospitals, directing them to re-engage the female health workers (trained midwives in maternity wards) who were removed four months ago.
The directive of the Director in Chief of Health Services came after the civil surgeon of Darbhanga district sent a written communication to the chief secretary and principal secretary of health, informing them that RJD president Lalu Prasad on 11 January had called him up and asked him (the civil surgeon) to ensure that the health workers called “Mamta” workers, who are paid Rs 100 per child delivery, were reemployed in the Darbhanga Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
Later, the civil surgeon of Darbhanga in his letter to the superintendent of DMCH said, “Instructions of honourable Lalu Prasadji should be followed immediately and compliance report presented to the RJD president.”
The superintendent later communicated to Lalu Yadav and not his health minister about the re-employment of the “Mamta” workers.
Tejpratap, the health minister, later defended the action of his father in issuing directions to the officials saying, “My father is not only the national president of RJD,a partner in the coalition government, but also a leading politician of the country.”
Similarly, last week, Lalu made an unscheduled visit to the Indira Gandhi institute of Medical Sciences at Patna and inspected different wards for three hours, following which he found the arrangements unsatisfactory and promised more funds and equipment to the premier health institute. Next morning, a team of senior officials of the health department led by principal secretary of health R.K. Mahajan visited the hospital and held a meeting with the doctors and soon after, as promised by Lalu, Rs 65 crore were sanctioned immediately.
According to officials, Lalu is not just looking after his son’s ministry, but he is also issuing directions to the DMs and SPs. When two engineers were recently murdered in Darbhanga, he spoke to the SSP of Darbhanga and directed him to immediately arrest the killers.
“Lalu wants to ensure that the Nitish led government functions properly so that no one blames his party for non-performance,” the state RJD president Ramchandra Purvey, while defending Lalu’s actions, said.
Former Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, though, has criticised Lalu’s actions and alleged he was behaving like an extra-constitutional authority and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was “lachar (helpless) before the elder brother”. Modi suggested that Lalu should be made chairman of some advisory council like Manmohan Singh had appointed Sonia Gandhi. “Lalu is working like a super CM. The files of the departments retained by his two sons — Tejeshwai and Tejpratap — were being cleared only after the former Chief Minister (Lalu) approves them. His minister sons only put their signatures,” he alleged.
Due to interference from Lalu, the appointment of the advocate general, too, was delayed as Lalu suggested the names of three lawyers close to him, which were turned down by Nitish Kumar who allowed the incumbent AG Rambalak Mahto to continue. “Lalu is seeking 75% of the posts of government pleaders (GPs) at Patna High Court and in different district courts for his supporters. However, the Chief Minister secretariat is not clearing the file as JDU also wants at least 50% of the vacancies to be filled by its supporting lawyers,” an official with the law ministry said.
Incidentally, since the formation of the Mahagathbandhan government on 20 November, the two leaders have not met.