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Lalu asks Nitish to drop Sushil Modi

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TAKING UMBRAGE: Union Minister for Railways Lalu Prasad shows the letter from Planning Commission certifying that he is a member of the body, during a press conference in Patna on Thursday.
TAKING UMBRAGE: Union Minister for Railways Lalu Prasad shows the letter from Planning Commission certifying that he is a member of the body, during a press conference in Patna on Thursday.

`Objection over a meeting of State officials'

Patna: Alleging that Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi has made an "irresponsible" statement challenging his authority to hold a meeting to review the ongoing centrally-sponsored schemes in the State, Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad on Thursday demanded Mr. Modi's removal from the Cabinet.

"Being a member of the Planning Commission, reconstituted through a notification by the Union Cabinet secretariat on June 17, 2004, I have the right to review the progress of centrally-sponsored schemes in any State," Mr. Prasad told reporters here.

He said that Mr. Modi's statement challenging his authority to hold such a meeting was "highly irresponsible and denigrating" and demanded his immediate removal from the cabinet by the Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar.

"Moreover, I am also a Central minister from Bihar and since the Centre is extending financial assistance to the State to carry out development work, I have the authority to convene the meeting," Mr. Prasad said and distributed the copy of the Union Cabinet secretariat's notification making him a member of the Planning Commission under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Suggesting to the Chief Minister "to break his ties with Mr. Modi and his communal brigade," the Railway Minister criticised Mr. Modi for being unaware of his position as a member of the Planning Commission.

When contacted, Mr. Modi denied the reports which appeared in a section of the press and expressed surprise over Mr. Prasad's "uncalled for behaviour".

Mr. Modi, however, said that he would verify the newspaper reports that had put such a statement into his mouth only after going into the facts relating to the meeting called by the Railway Minister.

The deputy adviser (MLP), Planning Commission, Indu Patnaik, had in a letter to the development commissioner (Bihar) on January 11 informed that the Railway Minister desired to hold meeting on February two with the concerned officers of Planning Commission, Ministry of Road Transport, National Highway Authority of India and Bihar Government to review the progress of Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana, construction and upgradation of national highways and schemes taken up under the 12th Finance Commission.

The Railway Minister has also sought a detailed report of the financial and physical progress of these schemes by January 29, 2007, Ms. Patnaik said in her letter.

Criticising Mr. Kumar for "unnecessarily" targeting the Central ministers from Bihar, the Railway Minister said they were being targeted by the present regime to hide the failure of the NDA government. Mr. Prasad said that hardly 15 per cent of the money released by the Centre for the State's development had been utilised ever since the NDA came to power. -- PTI


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