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Bihar Governor Phagu Chauhan a long-time UP leader, Modi govt’s OBC choice for post

Phagu Chauhan and Nitish Kumar differed last year over action against some V-Cs

Bihar Governor Phagu Chauhan and Nitish Kumar at Raj Bhawan in Patna (PTI/File)

The Governor presiding over the latest power change in Bihar is Phagu Chauhan, 71, who was brought in as a replacement for Lalji Tandon in July 2019.

The 40th Governor of Bihar was considered an inspired choice by the Narendra Modi government, being a leader of the Lonia community, from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. With elections due in Bihar soon, the move was seen as clever politics by the BJP to woo the OBC group, which is present in large numbers in the state.

A six-term MLA from Ghosi in Mau district, Chauhan was reportedly taken by surprise at the choice.

The 71-year-old has been around in UP politics for the past four decades, winning his first Assembly election in 1985 on the symbol of the Dalit Mazdoor Kisan Party. In 1991, he returned as an MLA on a Janata Dal ticket; and in 1996 and 2002, won on the BJP symbol. Then, he moved to the BSP, and won from Ghosi again in 2007. For the sixth time, in 2017, he contested on a BJP ticket, and won.

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In the recent Assembly elections in UP, Chauhan’s son Ram Vilas Chauhan was elected from the Madhuban seat on a BJP ticket.

While his tenure has been mostly without hiccups, in November 2021, there were reports of growing differences between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Chauhan over steps to be taken on corruption charges levelled against some vice-chancellors. Nitish reportedly pressed for a harsher line on the V-Cs. Bihar Education Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary even skipped a Raj Bhavan event on the matter.

Chauhan had finally met Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in Delhi, and sought a report by the Special Vigilance Unit (SVU) on raids on the premises of Magadh University Vice-Chancellor and said he would look into allegations against the V-C of a Darbhanga-based University.

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In February 2021, the Governor had axed 12 assistant professors of Rajendra College in Chapra for dancing to Bollywood tunes with students, as well as suspended its principal, triggering charges of “moral policing”. The event was the birth anniversary of India’s first President, Rajendra Prasad, after whom the college is named.

Chauhan had also suspended three professors of Jai Prakash University, to which Rajendra College is affiliated, for failing to carry out an “impartial” inquiry into the controversy.

First published on: 09-08-2022 at 03:19:24 pm
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