Bihar: Minister, accused of corruption, resigns hours after taking charge
Three days after taking the oath along with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Bihar's Education Minister Mewalal Choudhary tendered his resignation today. His decision came after corruption allegations against him rocked the newly-formed cabinet. Earlier, he said an accusation only stands ground when a charge-sheet is filed or a court gives an order. In this case, none of it happened, he highlighted.
Choudhary was among the 14 ministers who took oath along with Kumar. The JD(U) chief was appointed to the top post after NDA registered a slim victory in Bihar Assembly polls. However, the fourth straight term of Kumar was soon embroiled in a controversy when it was alleged that Choudhary supported corruption when he was the Vice-Chancellor of Bhagalpur Agriculture University.
The case concerns irregularities in appointments of assistant professors and junior scientists at the university. An investigation into the charges began after Ram Nath Kovind, who was Bihar's Governor at the time, sanctioned the same. In 2017, a criminal case was also filed against Choudhary, but no charge-sheet has been submitted yet. Unsurprisingly, soon after Choudhary's appointment, opposition RJD slammed Kumar.
Leading the charge against Kumar, RJD's Tejashwi Yadav said, "Power is protecting criminals...Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has granted an exemption to loot and robbery by appointing Mewalal Choudhary. (sic)" In response, Choudhary claimed he was the informer and not the guilty party. Reminding Yadav of the corruption charges against him, he said a probe in the matter was underway.
"I have not written anything (about corruption in my election affidavit). No one is above the law and a case is pending in court. Not even a charge-sheet has been filed. The probe is ongoing. Nothing has happened," he told NDTV.
If the corruption allegations weren't enough, RJD shared an undated video of Choudhary where he was seen fumbling while singing the National Anthem. Standing close to the tricolor, with people around him, the minister struggled to mouth the correct lines. "Nitish Kumar ji, is there any shame left? Where did the conscience sink?," RJD wrote on Twitter, along with the video that went viral.
भ्रष्टाचार के अनेक मामलों के आरोपी बिहार के शिक्षा मंत्री मेवालाल चौधरी को राष्ट्रगान भी नहीं आता।— Rashtriya Janata Dal (@RJDforIndia) November 18, 2020
नीतीश कुमार जी शर्म बची है क्या? अंतरात्मा कहाँ डुबा दी? pic.twitter.com/vHYZ8oRUVZ
This week, a diminished Kumar was sworn-in for the fourth consecutive term. NDA won Bihar only because of BJP's powerful performance. While the saffron party won 74 seats, out of the 110 it contested, ally JD(U) settled for 43 seats out of 115 seats it fought on. RJD, which won 75 seats, has been attacking Kumar for scoring fewer seats, yet becoming the CM.