Patna: In a major embarrassment for the Nitish government in Bihar, state cabinet minister Awadhesh Kushwaha was suspended from his post on late Sunday night in connection with an alleged sting operation which shows him accepting Rs 4 lakh bribe. The suspension comes barely 12 hours prior to the first phase of polling in the state.
The video, allegedly showing Nitish's minister Kushwaha receiving money from a businessman, has gone viral on social media.
Kushwaha, the JD (U) lawmaker from the Pipra assembly constituency in Bihar's West Champaran, is shown in the sting operation conducted by a little known 'Jai Hind Bihar' which has put a link on YouTube in which he was accepting money.
Also Read: Sharad Yadav hails Kushwaha's suspension
However, the minister's voice is not clear and a voice over the video explains that Kushwaha was taking the bribe by promising contracts if the JD (U) comes to power. It is also not clear in the video as to who is giving the alleged bribe.
According to the sting video, the advance was given to the suspended minister for benefitting the businessman after the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) comes to power in Bihar.
Later, the video was also tweeted by senior BJP leader and former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. He claimed it was yet another instance of corruption in the Nitish Kumar government who prides himself on a clean image and a governance agenda.
— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) October 11, 2015
Taking a quick action over the matter, CM Nitish Kumar suspended Kushwaha.
However, while speaking exclusively to Zee Media Corp, Kushwaha said, "I have sent in my resignation after talking to the Chief Minister after allegations of accepting Rs 4 lakh cropped up."
"But I categorically reject my presence in the video," the sacked minister said, adding that it is a "high-level conspiracy" against him by some ministers of the Central government.
The minister for Urban Development and Registration, Excise and Prohibition further said, "I requested the Chief Minister that I am a senior minister and I can not continue in the office in the wake of such serious allegations."
Meanwhile, JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav told reporters that Kushwaha's resignation has been received and forwarded to the Governor for acceptance.
"As soon as we came to know about the sting operation, I had a meeting with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and state party president Bashishtha Narayan Singh. We later spoke to Awadhesh Kushwaha who tendered his resignation," Yadav said.
He further said Kushwaha will not be the JD(U) candidate for Pipra assembly constituency in East Champaran district where the party will field another nominee.
The video emerged even as the stage is set for voting in 49 seats of Bihar Assembly elections in the first phase of the five-phase poll tomorrow.
Although, the Bihar Assembly elections, has turned into a bipolar contest between two big alliances – National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Mahagathbandhan. While the NDA comprises of small players like Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the front, the Mahagathbandhan consists of the Janata Dal United, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress.
But on the ground, the battle has confined to two political giants, who have become the face of the respective alliances – Prime Minister Narendra Modi representing the NDA and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has been touted as the face of a developing Bihar for the last decade.
A total of 1,35,72,339 electorate are eligible to decide the fate of 583 candidates for the 49 seats in 10 districts in the first phase of elections.Voting will begin from 7 am tomorrow.
While in majority of seats polling would end at 5 pm, in some constituencies time has been cut short to 4 pm and 3 pm on the basis of law and order situation feedback in the Naxal-hit areas.
Counting of votes will take place on November 8. The term of the current 243-member Bihar Assembly expires on November 29.
(With Agency inputs)