Days after newly sworn-in Bihar education minister and JDU leader Mewalal Choudhary was forced to resign over a three-year-old corruption case, an interesting question has emerged. Who, really, was behind the resignation of the two-time MLA from the Tarapur constituency?
On Thursday it appeared the opposition was; the RJD of Tejashwi Yadav had flagged the corruption case. The JDU’s ally, the BJP, also claimed credit, with party chief JP Nadda indicating Mr Choudhary’s resignation had been demanded and pressure put on Nitish Kumar to achieve this. Mr Kumar’s spokesperson, meanwhile, said the sacking was an example to other ministers and MLAs.
On Saturday, though, the JDU’s Ashok Choudhary, who is acting President and holds five cabinet berths, seemed to have a different answer – one that did not rule out the BJP’s involvement.
“This is the NDA. So what is wrong in what he is saying?” Mr Choudhary told reporters when asked about Mr Nadda’s comment about the JDU being pressured to act by the BJP.
The BJP and the JDU lead the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) which has retained power in Bihar after Assembly polls earlier this month. However, their roles have been reversed; the JDU has been relegated to junior status after it claimed only 43 seats to the BJP’s 74.
On Thursday, when Mewalal Choudhary resigned, several BJP leaders claimed credit for the party.
They claimed that when Nitish Kumar met Mr Choudhary a day earlier, no talk of resignation took place. It was only after the Chief Minister realised the serious nature of the charges and that the BJP was distinctly unhappy at Mr Choudhary continuing that his resignation was sought.
However, Ashok Choudhary today declared that the Chief Minister had actually taken action as early as Tuesday – when he was told of the charges against his new minister and that police had sought permission to file a charge sheet in the case.
He added that the Chief Minister then spoke to Mewalal Choudhary and sought his resignation.
At the heart of this matter is a criminal case filed against Mewalal Choudhary in 2017, following allegations he was involved in irregularities in the appointments to the posts of assistant professor and junior scientists as the vice-chancellor of Bhagalpur Agriculture University.
He was suspended from the party for a while after jibes from the BJP, which was then in the opposition camp. The case was filed and investigations conducted against him after sanction from President Ram Nath Kovind, who was then Governor of Bihar.
In his defence Mr Choudhary had said filing of a case is no indication of guilt. “There are cases against so many legislators,” he had said, adding that he had not included the matter in his election affidavit as “the probe is ongoing. Nothing has happened”.