Ever since President’s rule was imposed in Bihar, ministers in the erstwhile Rabri Devi government have felt both jobless and, more importantly, powerless. Some have served for between 5-15 years, and they are finding the going none too easy.
Their privilege and influence have dwindled. The cars and SUVs fitted with red beacons have suddenly disappeared. The secretariats wear a deserted look, the favour-seekers are gone, and it’s rare to bump into a neta in the hallways. Only the babus remain. Hours before central rule was imposed, the chief secretary called for all files with the ministers. Their official fixed and mobile phone lines were cut, eviction notices served on ministers living in state-owned bungalows and on MLAs who had lost. "Life has become difficult...they never realised that without power everything slips away," says JD(U) activist Anil Pathak.
Shakil Ahmad Khan, ex-law minister, is one of the few who has options. He’s resumed practice in the Patna HC. "Practice and politics is going simultaneously," says Khan, who also served as Laloo’s counsel in the fodder scam case. His juniors have maintained his tiny court chamber.
Another senior minister, Ramai Ram, was recently shocked when some district municipality officials confronted him with a court order in hand, They were out to remove the khatal (cowshed) at his official bungalow on Bailey Road. His fervent pleas did not work, and he announced he was selling a couple of bovines. But as his tormentors left, Ram cheerfully confessed that he had several more. By evening, milk buyers were carrying out cans. "I’ve been doing this for a long time," he says, asking, "is it illegal?"
. Some ex-ministers are out rediscovering their constituencies. "I go almost daily", says Shyam Rajak, ex-MoS for power. His routine now—jogging, praying, reading, watching TV and meeting people. He’s even finalised his own ‘gaon, gaon; paon, paon’ (village tour on foot) programme.
The scene at 1, Anne Marg, the CM’s residence and a hub of activity for 15 years, is miserable. An eerie silence engulfs the sprawling campus. Rabri Devi spends her time with the kids or inspecting her green fields and cowshed. The main gate is closed—permanently—for the media. "Saheb is out and madam does not want to meet the press," says a security guard. Rabri Devi once even yelled at a journalist who sneaked in, accusing the media for the defeat of her party.
Jagdanand Singh, a minister for 15 years, also has a bone to pick with the media: "You people accuse us of not providing good roads, but did you ever raise the point that we didn’t get adequate funds?" Singh says he gets more time to read now—mainly books on finance, economics, and commission reports. "I don’t have time for the family even today," he rues. Ashok Choudhary has no such issues. The ex-MoS for jails plays with his children apart from regular exercise, jogging and prayer. He also takes time out for computer classes.