With his claim of paying a bribe to settle his electricity bill flying in the face of his predecessor Nitish Kumar's claim of good governance in Bihar, Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi made a U-turn on Thursday and said the incident was of an earlier period and the money was given for sweets. The CM also blamed the media for 'twisting' his assertions on corruption. "The incident I referred to was of 1994," Manjhi told reporters in Sasaram before setting out for campaign in favour of JD(U) candidate for the by-poll to Mohania assembly seat.
Ally RJD was in power in the state in 1994 and Manjhi himself was a member of Lalu Prasad's party at that time. "I had given Rs 5,000 to my son for payment of electricity bill of my house in Gaya. He returned Rs 3,300 to me. When I saw that the electricity bill was Rs 1,500 only I asked him for Rs 200 and he told me he had given the money to the officials for sweets for taking pain to trace the old bill," Manjhi said.
The Bihar CM's comments on his paying bribes has triggered a major political debate in the state. Opposition BJP has lapped up the issue to beat old companion Nitish Kumar.
Addressing a batch of rural development officials at a function on Tuesday, Manjhi had conceded that corruption prevailed in the state apparently causing discomfiture to the ruling JD(U) and Nitish Kumar in the run-up to bypoll in 10 assembly seats next week. Manjhi had said his family members had to pay a bribe of Rs 5,000 to electricity department officials to get his power bill modified a couple of years ago. "The electricity department had sent a flattened bill of Rs 25000 at my house in Gaya town a couple of years ago...my family members had to cough up Rs 5,000 as bribe to the department officials to get the bill rectified even though I was a minister in the government," Manjhi recalled.
Manjhi had also said Kumar did bring about development in Bihar, but corruption continued unabated.