PATNA: In an embarrassment to the Nitish Kumar government for raining gifts on legislators, two senior BJP leaders on monday returned their gifts given by the Education Department in protest against non-payment of salaries to lakhs of school teachers in Bihar.
While Sushil Modi, former deputy chief minister and the leader of BJP legislature party in both Houses of the state legislature, returned all seven gift items, including the microwave oven at a counter in the legislative council, Mangal Pandey, state unit BJP chief, followed suit by returning the oven.
The former deputy chief minister said he and Pandey had decided to return the gifts to the Education department in protest against non-payment of salaries to lakhs of school teachers for months.
“How can we take gifts from the education department that can’t even pay salaries to lakhs of school teachers?” he told reporters.
A number of BJP legislators in the state legislative assembly are also likely to return microwave ovens, party functionaries said.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Ashok Chaudhary defended his department’s decision to give microwave ovens costing Rs 11,225 each to 243 legislators and 75 in the legislative council saying that it had been customary for various departments to gift goodies to legislators for the past several decades.
“It has been a long standing practice by various departments to provide gifts to the lawmakers…. some BJP leaders are needlessly making it an issue for the sake of publicity,” he told reporters outside the gate of the legislative council.
As far as the salaries of the school teachers were concerned, Chaudhary said the BJP leaders should take up the matter with Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and ask her to release funds under the Sharv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the centre’s flagship scheme for universal education.
Chaudhary added that he would explain the entire issue at a press conference in the next couple of days.