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Patronage Pipeline — Taken serious note, will probe: Bihar Govt; Opp targets Deputy CM

Late Wednesday, Prasad took part in a meeting of top BJP state leaders, including general secretary (organisation) Bhikhubhai Dalsaniya, at the residence of the other Deputy CM Renu Devi.

Dy CM Tarkishore Prasad

IN the wake of The Indian Express report that contracts worth at least Rs 53 crore were awarded under Bihar’s Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal drinking water scheme to family members and aides of Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishore Prasad, the state government said it will probe the “process of bidding and tendering if there are specific complaints”.

Late Wednesday, Prasad took part in a meeting of top BJP state leaders, including general secretary (organisation) Bhikhubhai Dalsaniya, at the residence of the other Deputy CM Renu Devi.

Sources said the meeting discussed the findings of The Indian Express investigation.

Speaking to The Indian Express earlier, PHED Minister Ram Prit Paswan said: “We have taken serious note of the issue of political patronage. Though friends and relatives of politicians have every right to get government contracts through due process, we will scrutinise the process of bidding and tendering if there are specific complaints.”

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He said: “I have asked the department’s secretary to look into such complaints…that someone did not get contracts because others with political connections were favoured.”

Paswan’s response came even as opposition parties, Congress and RJD, called for Prasad’s resignation.

Meanwhile, PHED Engineer-in-Chief and Special Secretary Daya Shankar Mishra said in a letter to The Indian Express that “the implementation of Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal schemes in Katihar district has been carried out with a transparent tendering process as per the provisions” laid down by the government.

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“No complaint against award of tender and/or deficiency in service has been received in the Department so far. In case any complaint is received or any adverse issue is flagged, strict action would be taken as per Government rules and provisions,” the letter stated.

Earlier Wednesday, Bihar’s Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav dared Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to take action against Prasad. “This government has been mired in allegations of corruption…. Nitish Kumar often talks of monitoring the Har Ghar Nal Ka Jal scheme. But can he take action against his Deputy CM Tarkishore Prasad? Nitish Kumar is the CM on compassionate grounds and cannot take action against (other) NDA leaders,” said Tejashwi.

In New Delhi, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala described the scheme as “Har Neta Theka Yojana (contract for every leader scheme)”.

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Referring to the findings of The Indian Express investigation, Surjewala targeted the BJP leadership and the Bihar government. “Isn’t this a conflict of interest? Shouldn’t Tarkishore Prasad resign immediately? Shouldn’t J P Nadda seek his resignation immediately? Shouldn’t (Prime Minister) Modiji and (Union Home Minister) Amit Shahji come forward and speak against corruption? Why is (Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar silent?” he asked.

“Tarkishore Prasad should resign or be sacked,” Surjewala said.

However, Bihar BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal defended Prasad, saying that his “family and aides had got contracts in 2019-20 when he was an MLA (in Katihar)”.

On Wednesday, The Indian Express reported that the scheme’s implementation has been marked by political patronage to a set of beneficiaries — from Prasad to senior JD(U) and BJP leaders of the ruling coalition.

The PHED, which is the scheme’s implementing authority along with the state’s Panchayati Raj and Urban Development departments, has awarded a bulk of the contracts.

First published on: 23-09-2021 at 04:00 IST
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