Patna: A day after his "secret" meeting with state officials belonging to SC and ST categories stoked controversy, Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Monday said even his predecessor Nitish Kumar used to hold such meetings.
"What's wrong in it?" Manjhi told reporters after his "Janata ke Darbar me Mukhya Mantri" programme today.
"Such meetings used to take place even during Nitish Kumar's time but the media did not publicise them. Now since I did it, it has become a subject of discussion," Manjhi justified his meeting with over 200 SC and ST officers of the state yesterday.
"This was not the first such meeting. It was the fourth I held," he said.
Asked as to why the meeting at Chief Minister's secretariat yesterday was described as "secret" from which the media was kept off, Manjhi said the meeting discussed problems of SC/ST officers such as why their promotion was pending, discrimination in their transfer and implicating some officials of weaker sections in false cases.
"How can I share such details with media? That is why I said it was a secret meeting," the CM said.
The meeting is being seen by the local media as Manjhi's another attempt to play "dalit card" to continue as the Chief Minister.
The government recently enacted a reshuffle of top level bureaucracy in which senior officials like Principal Secretary Home Amir Subhani, Building Construction Department Secretary Chanchal Kumar and Principal Secretary in Road Construction department Arun Kumar Singh, considered close to former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, were replaced by SC IAS officers.
State agriculture minister Narendra Singh also justified the meeting.
"Whats wrong in this?" he said.
"Even government of India has recognised separate union and associations of SC and ST officials in railway and postal departments," he said, refusing to acknowledge that the meeting violated the Constitution and promoted casteism.