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Why Mewalal Choudhary, Bihar’s new education minister is in the eye of a storm

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Patna, Nov 19: Mewalal Choudhary, the new education minister of Bihar, is in the eye of a storm as the opposition has questioned the ruling BJP-JDU combine over the decision to elevate the tainted leader while ignoring legislators from minority communities.

Reportedly, Mewalal Choudhary met Nitish Kumar at Nitish Kumar's residence. The chief minister believed to have discussed the controversy surrounding Choudhary, who recently took oath as the Education Minister of Bihar.

Why Mewalal Choudhary, Bihar’s new education minister is in the eye of a storm

There is also a possibility that Nitish may end up replacing Mewala Chaudhary in the state cabinet.

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What is the controversy?

The opposition has claimed Choudhary, a former vice-chancellor of an agriculture university and a first-time minister, faces serious charges under the Indian Penal Code including cheating and dishonestly (section 420), and criminal conspiracy (120B).

Choudhary, 67, was suspended from the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) in 2017 after an FIR was registered against him over alleged irregularities in appointments during his tenure as the Vice Chancellor of the Bihar Agriculture University, Sabour in Bhagalpur district.

The FIR was registered against him in February that year on the basis of a report by the then VC over some anomalies in the appointment of Assistant Professors and junior scientists. BJP which was in the opposition during the Grand Alliance ministry then had strongly raised the issue against Choudhary.

Chaudhary had left the job to contest the 2015 Bihar polls on a JD(U) ticket and was elected from Tarapur Assembly seat in Munger district. He retained his seat in the just- concluded state polls and has been made the Education Minister. The probe has brought to light alleged irregularities in the appointment of 161 Assistant Professors and Junior Scientists in 2012.

Opposition attacks Nitish

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav said, "Tejashwi Yadav had promised to provide 10 lakh jobs in his first cabinet meeting but Nitish Kumar in his first cabinet, has appointed Mewalal, who is involved in appointment scam as his minister. Nitish has displayed his priorities."

Tejashwi Yadav accused four-time Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of appointing "criminals" to retain power in state.

"Power is protecting criminals... Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has granted exemption to loot and robbery by appointing Mewalal Chaudhary... the Chief Minister will continue his discourse on Crime, Corruption and Communalism to save his chair... None of the minority communities were made ministers," he wrote.

CPI-ML state secretary Kunal said his party, which has 12 MLAs, will protest against Choudhary from day one of the new assembly's first session, which is on November 23.

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Taking a dig at the Chief Minister over his oft-repeated assertions that he will not tolerate three Cs crime, communalism and corruption - Kunal said, "You keep talking about the three Cs, then what is this? You yourself had suspended him. The case against him is still going on. And you have made a corrupt man the education minister." "We are requesting other Mahagathbandhan allies to join our protest. Our student wings will also protest against him," Kunal said. Congress MLC and AICC media panelist Prem Chandra Mishra also tweeted against Choudhary.

"Like Mewalal Choudhary the Education Minister, Chief Minister @NitishKumar himself has tarnished his image and hurt his political reputation," Mishra tweeted with the hashtag 'Sack Mewalal' in Hindi. While the minister was not available for comment, his Personal Assistant Abhishek Kumar said only courts will decide if he was guilty.

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    "The minister has to say that the courts are supreme," Abhishek told PTI. "And if there is any case, only the court can decide whether somebody is guilty or not. There is no need to say anything when the case is sub-judice." Asked if the JD(U) suspending Choudhary was an admission of guilt, Abhishek said, "This is the party's rule that if you face any allegations, you are asked to (leave) for some time."

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