Sunday, June 25th, 2006
Patna – A police complaint was lodged against a drunken Bihar legislator of the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) party after he allegedly threatened to kill the staff of a five-star hotel and media persons here when he was asked to pay his bill.
Patna Police registered a case against Sunil Pandey, a known ‘bahubali’ or muscleman, Saturday night. Pandey had threatened to order his henchmen to shoot the hotel staff and reporters for questioning him. He had forcibly occupied a room of the hotel in a drunken state and refused to pay up.
Meanwhile, opposition parties in the state have demanded action against Pandey.
Congress leader Ashok Kumar sought immediate intervention of Governor R.S. Gavai.
‘We have written a letter to the governor demanding action against Pandey,’ he said.
Abdul Bari Siddiqui, state president of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), asked Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to take stringent action against Pandey to prove his ’sushashan’ (good governance).
The police have claimed that no witnesses have come forward against Pandey.
‘Till now no witnesses have approached us,’ said Senior Superintendent of Police Kundan Krishnan.
JD-U general secretary Upendra Kushwaha said the party would look into the case and study it. ‘We cannot initiate any action on the basis of media reports,’ he said.
The incident occurred minutes after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar gave a sermon on good governance and the rule of law during his seven-month rule at a function.
Pandey has several criminal charges against him, including of murder, kidnapping and extortion. Police took over 12 hours to lodge a first information report against Pandey.
Patna Superintendent of Police Vikas Vaibhab said a non-bailable police complaint was lodged Saturday night against Pandey, who has since gone underground. Efforts are being made to trace him, he said.
Staff at the five-star hotel said Pandey, who was very drunk, came to the hotel with his wife Geeta, his son and armed guards Friday night and forced the staff to give him a room. He had food and wine, they said.
When the legislator was asked to pay up, he refused saying he hadn’t made an entry in the hotel register.
Pandey reportedly abused and threatened reporters when they rushed to the hotel to cover the incident. ‘How dare you show me in this condition? Vishwanath (to one of his guards), shoot them. I will get you killed,’ he is reported to have yelled.
Pandey, who represents Piro constituency in Bhajpur district, allegedly has links with the Ranvir Sena, a banned private militia of landed upper caste Bhumihars.
In fact, Pandey is not the first legislator to have displayed muscle power and highhandedness publicly. Two months ago, Giriraj Singh, a legislator of JD-U’s ally Bharatiya Janata Party, had intimidated the Patna airport director Atul Dikshit.
Earlier, a JD-U legislator Anant Singh threatened a senior government official.
The local media here has criticised the
Pandey incident. They say such incidents had never occurred during the 15-year RJD rule, widely termed as ‘jungle raj’ by the current regime.
Some local Hindi dailies Sunday come out with headlines saying the ‘Rabri raj’ (former chief minister Rabri Devi) was better than that of Nitish Kumar. Another daily said ‘There is no end to jungle raj in Bihar’.
The incident has elicited cynical reactions from people over Nitish Kumar’s stress on ’sushashan’.
‘Nothing has changed in the state. Sunil Pandey’s act has exposed the myth of good governance,’ said Mahesh Prasad Chaurasia, 46, a businessman from Patliputra Colony.
‘Nitish Kumar’s sushashan is a media-created image rather than a reality. The ruling JD-U leaders and musclemen have only replaced the previous ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal. There are many Pandeys in the ruling party, who hardly care for the rule of law,’ said Harendra Singh, a retired government official.
Syed Siraj, a Patna resident from Sabzibagh, a Muslim-populated locality, said Pandey’s act was not an isolated incident. ‘Several such cases go unreported here and across the state,’ he said. ‘If a legislator of the ruling party could threaten to kill or shoot mediamen publicly, how can you imagine Bihar being on the path to sushashan. What about the common man like me on the street,’ asked Siraj, a consultant.