A senior IAS officer, credited with the disputed turnaround of Indian Railways during Lalu Yadav's tenure as railways minister in the UPA regime, has come in the firing line of NDA parliamentarians.
Thirty-three members of Parliament from the BJP and its partners in Bihar have moved a privilege notice to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan against Sudhir Kumar, member of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), saying the officer made "insulting remarks" during a discussion about the condition of road projects in Bihar.
"Imaandari kisi ki bapauti nahin hai (honesty is nobody's monopoly)," Kumar allegedly told the parliamentarians during a heated exchange of words between him and the MPs over his reports on the reasons for lack of progress in different road projects in the state.
The MPs also said Kumar "misled" them by making "false statements" during the discussion at a meeting convened by the road transport and highways minister last month.
"His (Kumar's) tone and tenor was insulting … made several false statements to exonerate himself and the contractors, misleading the members in the course of discharge of their responsibilities as MPs, which is breach of privilege," said BJP MP and former union home secretary RK Singh in his report to the LS Speaker, requesting that the matter be examined by the Privilege Committee for further action.
"They (parliamentarians) have a right to dignity while engaged in their duties," added Singh, who also attached a detailed list of Kumar's "false statements" regarding road projects in Bihar.
For instance, Kumar reportedly told them that the construction of the approach to Digha Bridge in Patna had to be cancelled because land was not available. "In fact, the 12-km stretch on the Patna side was government land, which was handed over to the contractor. He was given a mobilisation advance and he did work for only 2.6% in two years," said the MPs in their annexure to the privilege notice.
One MP said Kumar was "callous" during the discussion about the condition of road projects in Bihar.
"We were talking about the terrible condition of roads and slow progress of road projects in Bihar. He (Kumar) was very callous and casual. Woh gandi tarah se baat kar raha tha (he was talking in an improper manner)," BJP MP Kirti Azad, one of the signatories, told HT.
It's rare for so many MPs to move a privilege notice against a serving bureaucrat. Kumar, in his capacity as officer on special duty (OSD) to then Railways Minister Lalu Yadav, was said to be instrumental in the turnaround of the Railways with a surplus of about Rs one lakh crore.
Lalu's successors, however, alleged the surplus was a result of changes in accounting methods. The 1982 batch IAS officer from the Bihar cadre later co-authored a book titled "Bankruptcy to Billions: How the Indian Railways Transformed Itself".
Kumar refused to comment saying, "I haven't got it (privilege notice) yet." The Lok Sabha Secretariat recently sent a copy of the notice to the road transport & highways ministry which is learnt to have forwarded the notice to Kumar on Friday.
RK Singh also declined comment on the notice. "We have written what we felt. It is not something that we bandy about in the press," he said.