Nitish sacks Bihar excise minister who alleged scam

Patna, Feb 18 (Calcutta Tube) Bihar Excise Minister Jamshed Ashraf was sacked Thursday, a week after he alleged there was a ‘multi-crore scam’ in his department that had the involvement of people in the chief minister’s secretariat.

Ashraf created a storm last week when he spoke of a Rs.500 crore fraud in the excise department, committed with alleged connivance of senior bureaucrats.

He also questioned Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s ‘silence’ on the issue, claiming he had shot off letters to him and Chief Secretary Anup Mukherjee asking for a probe into the graft. He also threatened to reveal more on a public platform in the coming days.

Kumar, in a letter, Wednesday asked Ashraf to resign as minister of state for excise, prohibition and registration (independent charge) for breaching the office of secrecy, failing which he would be dismissed.

Immediately after he was sacked Thursday, Ashraf demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the scam.

‘I dare (the chief minister) to order a CBI probe into the multi-crore excise scam,’ he told reporters here.

Ashraf said that he was dismissed by Kumar to save the bureaucrats and others involved in the multi-crore excise scam.

‘I will not sit silent but expose people behind the scam… wait for a few days,’ he said.

Ashraf had last week said that he had objected to the extension of contracts for alcohol sales to ‘outside parties’, while ignoring locals.

‘I can say that despite several objections, I was overruled by Principal Secretary (Excise) Amir Subhani and the chief secretary. The chief minister’s assent was taken. If I as a minister do not count at all, what can I say? I am definitely frustrated and humiliated because the chief minister did not bother to read the file or pursue the objections,’ Ashraf alleged.

The minister said that in his second letter to the chief minister he had demanded that Excise Commissioner N. Vijaylakshmi be removed and the joint commissioner be suspended.

According to Ashraf, he wrote to the chief secretary Sep 16 last and personally handed over the letter to Nitish Kumar during the Jan 14 cabinet meeting on the river Ganga.

Nitish Kumar brushed aside the charges by Ashraf stating that nobody could influence or purchase him.

A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Patna High Court seeking a probe by the CBI into the alleged excise scam.

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