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Nitish's new headache: Cracks in Grand Alliance after Bihar Board toppers' row

Niharika Kumari | Updated on: 9 June 2016, 0:10 IST
The controversy
  • Board exam toppers in Bihar have been found to not know the basics about their subjects
  • Twelve out of the 13 toppers were asked to write a re-test
The fallout
  • An embarrassed state education minister Ashok Choudhary has taken action
  • He has relieved BSEB chief Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh of his duties
More in the story
  • Why all three constituent parties of the Grand Alliance are indulging in mud-slinging
  • What steps CM Nitish has taken to ensure the stability of the alliance

The irregularities in Bihar's Class XII state Board examinations are snowballing into a major political row. The controversy has even caused differences within the ruling Grand Alliance.

On Monday, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dissolved two committees formed to investigate the discrepancies. He has now assigned the probe to the state police.

All the three constituents of the Grand Alliance, the JD(U), RJD and Congress, are in some way related to the fiasco. This has resulted in a tug-of-war between these parties over the issue.

Also read - FIR registered against 4 'toppers' of Bihar Board exams who failed retests

To put the matter into perspective, one needs to first meet the three main characters in this story.

The RJD man

The first is Bacha Rai, the owner of Vishun Rai Inter College in Vaishali. All the toppers under the scanner have passed out from this school.

Considered a close associate of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, Bacha Rai is an old RJD supporter. He had even campaigned for Lalu's son Tej Pratap Yadav during the last assembly polls. Bacha Rai is also an important source of political donations for Lalu's party.

JD(U) leaders had no qualms about taking action against Bacha Rai, despite the RJD's strong protest.

However, the party changed its tone as soon as the probe reached its own doors.

The Congress man

The second person facing embarrassment in this matter is state education minister Ashok Choudhary. He is the man ultimately responsible for the imbroglio, because of the position he holds. He is also the current state Congress president.

Choudhary had recently made tall claims about eliminating all malpractices in the Class X and Class XII exams conducted by the Bihar State Education Board (BSEB).

His department had indeed taken unprecedented measures to curb cheating during the exams. As a result, the pass percentage in these exams has sharply declined.

Choudhary is miffed with his own department ever since the media exposed the reality of some of the toppers of these exams.

The JD(U) man

The third prominent person in the story is BSEB chairman Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh, whom Choudhary has apparently handpicked as a scapegoat. He was forced to resign on Wednesday.

Singh's resignation came hours after the education department served him a second show cause notice.

Choudhary had given an indication of strong action against Singh on Friday.

"No person responsible for this incident would be spared, even if he happens to be the board chairman," he had stated. The minister had also constituted a committee to investigate the functioning of the Board on Sunday.

Education minister Ashok Choudhary has apparently handpicked BSEB chairman LP Singh as a scapegoat

Singh is believed to be a staunch supporter of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He hails from Nitish's home district of Nalanda, and belongs to the same Kurmi caste.

In 2012, when the then-Press Council of India president Markandey Katju had alleged an undeclared press censorship in Bihar, Singh had started raising slogans in front of Katju. He was the principal of the prestigious Patna College at that time.

Singh's influence within JD(U) circles also stems from the fact that his wife is a former MLA of the party. Action against him is not likely to go down well with the JD(U) leadership.

Nitish the referee

JD(U) wants to salvage its reputation in this matter at any cost. Singh was trying his best to do the same. He had initiated a judicial probe into the controversy without even taking the state government's consent.

But when all three parties of the Grand Alliance are entangled in this imbroglio, a referee is required to find a solution.

Nitish himself took the lead in this regard, and called a high-level meeting of the education department & Board officials on Monday. He advised the leaders of the three parties to desist from issuing statements against each other.

Nitish has advised the three parties' leaders to desist from issuing statements against each other

It was only to prevent wrangling that Nitish ordered the dissolution of all the committees formed by the Board and the education department to probe the matter. He also instructed the police to register a criminal case against the culprits.

It remains to be seen whether the Chief Minister's intervention would bear any fruit. Truth can be the first casualty amid the tussle between the three parties.

Secondly, if a criminal case is registered against the toppers, who would ascertain the validity of the results of lakhs of students?

It is clear that Nitish's first priority is to keep his alliance in tact, than finding out the truth.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 9 June 2016, 0:10 IST