Why Bihar’s New Education Minister Mewalal Was Forced to Resign
A probe team had indicted Choudhary for anomalies in hiring of faculty at a Bihar Varsity, of which he was VC.
Days after he was sworn in as Bihar’s Education Minister, Janata Dal (United) leader and Tarapur MLA Mewalal Choudhary has stepped down from the position.
The two-time lawmaker was forced to resign over allegations of irregularities in the selection of faculty members, while he was the Vice Chancellor of Bihar Agriculture University between 2010 to 2015.
What sparked the controversy?
When Mewalal Choudhary appeared on the dais and solemnly swore to uphold the Constitution as Bihar’s Education Minister, many were left surprised. Perhaps aghast, as well.
But it wasn’t like the Tarapur MLA, who served as the Vice Chancellor of Bihar Agricultural University for half a decade, didn’t suit the new portfolio. Neither was it a case where someone heavily rumoured and better suited for the job was not chosen at the last moment.
What did poke many in the party and certainly those in the opposition was that fact that Choudhary was suspended from the party in February 2017, over allegations of massive irregularities in the hiring of faculty at the varsity he headed.
Playing on the infamous seva and mewa analogy, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), in many of its attacks on Choudhary, congratulated the Nitish-led government for making ‘people like Choudhary’ ministers in the Cabinet.
What is Choudhary saying?
However, Choudhury, who holds a PhD in Horticulture from the Banaras Hindu University, told The Quint that these allegations are completely baseless and are politically motivated.
“These are all useless, [sic.] have no meaning and are completed fabricated and manipulated by political people who have nothing to do with the development of Bihar or its education space.”Mewalal Choudhary, Education Minister, Bihar
What is the controversy surrounding Choudhary?
Bihar Agriculture University, an autonomous institution under the Bihar government, was established in Sabour of Bihar’s Bhagalpur district in the year 2010.
Mewalal Choudhary was appointed the Founder Vice Chancellor of the varsity for a period of five years from 2010 to 2015.
A year after his appointment, the university published advertisements inviting applications for the post of 281 Assistant Professors-cum-Junior Scientists.
While only 161 vacancies were filled, the varsity’s Chancellor, the then Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, received complaints that candidates who secured low marks in academics were given higher marks in the interview and presentation process, whereas those with strong academic performance had been given low marks in interviews.
According to Hindustan Times, some applicants had alleged that PhD degree holders and NET-qualified candidates were sidelined, while high marks were given to a few.
Based on these complaints, the Chancellor formed an inquiry committee under Justice (retd.) Syed Mohammad Mahfooz Alam in 2015, which found the allegations to be true and indicted Choudhary for anomalies in the appointment process.
In 2015, Choudhary relinquished his post as Vice Chancellor and contested Assembly elections on a JD(U) ticket from Tarapur, which he eventually won.
Was any police complaint file against Choudhary?
In February 2017, an FIR was lodged against Choudhary by BAU’s Registrar, based on the former’s indictment by the inquiry committee.
Ajoy Kumar Singh, the then Vice Chancellor of BAU, said that the FIR was lodged after the varsity received a directive from the Chancellor, reported Hindustan Times.
In that complaint, sections of the PIC relating to forgery like 466, 468, 471, 309, 420 and 120(D), were slapped against Choudhary.
Days later, on 23 February, the JD(U) suspended Choudhary. Back then, party spokesperson Sanjay Singh had said that Choudhary was suspended, as charges of anomalies in the appointment process at BAU were found to be true.
In March, a Bhagalpur district court issued non bailable warrant against Choudhury, after he failed to turn up for interrogation, before a STF formed for the purpose.
However, in August 2017, Choudhary moved the Patna High Court, which granted him anticipatory bail as the inquiry report could not find or produce any material that would prove that Choudhary had made favorable appointments.
He was then re-inducted in the party.
What is the status of the case?
Choudhary pointed out that so far no charge sheet has been filed against him and that everything is presently under investigation.
According to The Indian Express, Sujit Kumar, Deputy Inspector General of Police, said that till date the charge sheet has been filed against two people in the case, which does not include Choudhary.
He also said that investigations are on and that a supplementary charge sheet could be filed later, if required.
What is the controversy surrounding his wife’s death?
In May 2019, Choudhary’s wife Neeta, a former MLA, died after suffering 90 percent burn injuries, while the minister escaped with injuries on his hands.
According to news agency PTI, the couple had woken up to foul smell in the middle of the night, and had gone to the kitchen to check what was amiss. As soon as they switched on the light, the cylinder exploded, injuring both.
However, according to IANS, Amitabh Kumar Das, an IPS officer of Bihar cadre, had claimed that the mysterious death of Choudhary’s wife Neeta could be a political conspiracy with links to a recruitment scam allegedly perpetrated by Choudhary.
When asked by The Quint about these allegations, Choudhary said he would take “serious legal action” against Das.
“It is very serious, I am going to give him a legal notice and take serious action. My lawyer is in the process of drafting the case.”Mewalal Choudhary, Education Minister, Bihar
Did Mewalal forget the National Anthem?
In a old video tweeted by the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Choudhary can be seen singing the National Anthem, possibly at a school. However, after Vindhya Himachala, Choudhary appears to mumble a few words incomprehensible words.
He then skips a large part of the anthem, and finishes with Jaya Hai, Jaya Hai, Jaya hai. In the end, he tops the incomplete National Anthem with Bharat Mata ki Jai.
Tweeting the video, the RJD said “Bihar Education Minister Mevalal Chaudhary, accused of several corruption cases, does not even know the national anthem.”
(With inputs from Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, PTI and IANS)
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