Even as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s government is facing criticism over the criminal background of some of the newly sworn-in ministers, the decision to induct three women MLAs in the cabinet is being praised.
Kumar’s cabinet, which was expanded a few days ago, has three women ministers — Anita Devi, Sheela Kumari Mandal and Leshi Singh.
The RJD is being criticised over its quota of ministers having criminal background, but its sole woman minister does not have any criminal case against her.
Anita Devi (50), RJD MLA from Nokha in Rohtas district has been elected for the second time in Bihar Vidhan Sabha. In the 2015 Assembly election, she managed to win the Nokha seat with a margin of more than 22,998 votes by defeating Rameshwar Prasad of the BJP. She repeated her winning performance in 2020 and defeated Nagendra Chandrawanshi of JD(U) with a margin of more than 17672.
Devi, is said to be very close to former Chief Minister Rabri Devi. This was probably the reason why she managed to obtain a berth during the cabinet expansion of Nitish Kumar government and become OBC and EBC welfare minister of the state. As per her declaration affidavit before the Election Commission, her properties and cash are worth more than Rs one crore. Her educational qualification is intermediate (Class 12) pass.
When contacted, she claimed to address the issues of people belonging to the poor, backward class and extremely backward class. She wants to work for their welfare and bring them on the development path.
Sheela Kumari Mandal, JD(U) was elected for the first time from the Phulparas Assembly constituency in Madhubani district in 2020 and Nitish Kumar given her the cabinet berth in his government.
Mandal has a political background, her father-in-law, Dhanik Lal Mandal, was also an MLA from Phulparas and holds the constitutional post of Speaker in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha. In 1977, he became the MP from Jhanjharpur Lok Sabha constituency and became MoS Home in the Morarji Desai government. He was also the Governor of Haryana from 1990-95.
Sheela’s brother-in-law was also an MLA from Laukaha from the RJD. Her husband is an engineer by profession. She managed to obtain a cabinet berth for the second time and holds the post of transport minister.
Leshi Singh, JD(U), is one of the oldest political leaders connected with Nitish Kumar. She has been associated with him since the formation of Samata Party in 1994. She first became the MLA from Dhamdaha in 2000 after ther murder of her husband, Madhusudan Singh alias Butan Singh.
Butan was gunned down inside a district court in Purnea in 2000. Initially, she was involved in the transport business. After the murder of her husband, she actively participated in politics. She became an MLA for the fourth time in 2020 and second time entered the cabinet of Nitish Kumar government. She is currently holding the post of fertilizer and consumer affairs ministry in the Bihar government.
Leshi Singh’s name has came up in two murder cases. First, her name came to the fore during the 2020 Assembly election when an RJD leader, Binni Singh, was gunned down in Purnea. The second is the murder case of Rintu Singh, the former district council president of Purnea.
After the expansion of Nitish Kumar government, Bima Bharti, another JD(U) leader, opened a front against Leshi Singh on Wednesday and levelled serious allegations on her. Bharti alleged that Leshi Singh and her son are involved in murder and extortion cases. She also alleged that Leshi Singh was involved in anti-party activities.