Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar faced an embarrassing situation at a cabinet meeting Tuesday when state Agriculture Minister Sudhakar Singh remained unapologetic about claiming at a public meeting that all officials of his department are thieves and he their leader (‘Choron ka sardar’), and walked out of the state secretariat in a huff.
A “shocked and stunned” Nitish then called up alliance partner and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and urged him to rein in the RJD minister, another RJD leader who was present at the meeting told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
In a video that has gone viral, Singh is purportedly heard making the remarks at a public meeting in Kaimur district Saturday, even taking a swipe at the ruling Mahagathbandhan alliance, saying that the government was new but its working style was the same old way.
#WATCH | There is not a single wing of our (agriculture) dept that does not commit acts of theft. As I am the in-charge of the department, I become their Sardar (chief)…There are many more people above me: Bihar Agriculture Min S Singh, in Kaimur (12.09)
(Source: Viral video) pic.twitter.com/p6mNVRgr60
— ANI (@ANI) September 13, 2022
At the Tuesday cabinet meeting, the Ramgarh legislator was unmoved when Nitish pulled him up for making such statements at a public event and advised him to exercise caution, remarked another RJD minister who was present at the time.
Singh stood his ground asserting that whatever he had said was the truth, and even offered to quit before he walked out of the meeting, the minister added.
Speaking to ThePrint, Singh reiterated his stand saying that he had done nothing wrong. “The farmers are not getting fertilisers. [Irrigation] water is not reaching their fields, none of the programmes of the agriculture department are reaching the people. The Krishi Roadmap is a joke.”
Three roadmaps have been implemented so far after the much publicised programme was launched to boost Bihar’s agriculture production in 2008.
The agriculture minister further said that he had made the ‘chor’ statement after listening to the complaints of farmers in Kaimur. “I have raised these issues when I was in the opposition. Now even after becoming a minister, nothing has changed,” he told ThePrint.
Singh asserted that he stood by the people and complained that nobody in the government listened to him.
Lalu, meanwhile, had to step in to diffuse the situation as Nitish and the Janata Dal (United) were angry not only about the episode but for also giving fodder to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to attack the Mahagathbandhan government.
“Laluji advised Singh that he should not make statements that embarrass the government as he was a cabinet minister. He told him that governments are not run on emotions. He also made Sudhakar speak to his father [and RJD state president] Jagdanand Singh,” said another RJD leader who was present when Singh met the party supremo at his Circular Road residence.
The RJD insider confirmed that Nitish had a word with Lalu on phone after the minister had walked out of the meeting. Singh went to Lalu’s residence from the state secretariat, he added.
Field day for BJP, JD(U) fumes
While the JD(U) leaders are tight-lipped about the development, they admit privately that Singh’s statement has hurt the image of Nitish Kumar.
“During the Grand Alliance government in 2015, the late Raghuvansh Prasad Singh used to make regular public statements which humiliated Nitish Kumar and questioned his governance. It was one of the reasons why the Grand Alliance government collapsed [in 2017]. Sudhakar Singh appears to be the new Raghuvansh Prasad Singh,” a JD(U) legislator told ThePrint.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP and former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi took a swipe at his friend-turned-adversary, saying Nitish is helpless in the current dispensation: “Sudhakar Singh is posing a major challenge to Nitish Kumar. However, the CM is helpless. The future of Sudhakar Singh will be decided not by CM Nitish Kumar, but by RJD chief Lalu Prasad.”
Singh is an accused in the Bihar State Food and Civil Supplies scam which is still pending in the Patna High Court. In August, Sushil Modi had demanded the resignation of the RJD minister, claiming that Singh was still supposed to pay Rs 12 crore to the Bihar government.
(Edited by Tony Rai)