Patna: For Bihar lawmakers, it has not been the thought that counts. Gifts like cellphones and brand – new suitcases are dispensed – one a day – to over 200 state legislators in keeping with a self-serving ritual of every budget session.
Unhappy with the headlines generated last week after microwaves were presented by the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has decided to nix the freebies. Sources say that the cabinet will be asked to ban the scheme, which has been in practice for nearly two decades. They also added that in nearly 10 years, Mr Kumar has eschewed all gifts presented to him.
However, it was BJP leader Sushil Modi who led others from his party today in returning the microwaves they received on Friday. Education Minister Ashok Chowdhury had justified his department’s decision, stating that it cost “only ” 30 lakhs and would enable legislators to heat their meals when visiting their constituencies.
The budget session usually lasts about 35 days. On each, a different department presents its annual expenses and spend for clearance; in an unsubtle move to influence the proceedings, the department presents its gift along with its finances for review.
Deputy Chief Minister Tejwasi Yadav, 25, feels the presents are well-deserved. “The people who get elected in Bihar are not crorepatis but poor people. What is so wrong if they get some gifts?” he challenged.
Sources close to Mr Modi of the BJP said that a few years ago, he proposed a modification – “All departments should club their gifts and hand out just one.”
The suggestion was struck down by Bihar’s politicians with rare alacrity and unanimity.