Patna: A day after images of Bihar's 243 legislators being gifted a microwave oven each by the state's education department caused outrage, the opposition BJP says its senior leaders will return the gift.
Senior Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi announced his intention on Twitter. "Lakhs of school teachers (are) without salary for last four months. Prem Kumar, Mangal Pandey and myself will return gifts like micro oven back to govt (sic)," Mr Modi tweeted.
Defending the practice that has gone on for two decades, including when the BJP was in power for eight years, education minister Ashok Chaudhary had said, "Our MLAs need to travel to their constituencies to inspect mid-day meals. So when they go, they can take the microwave oven with them and heat food and eat."
"GOB has given ridiculous justification that Bihar MLA's are poor & will use micro oven to taste Mid Day Meal. MLA's paid 1.5 Lakh per month," Mr Modi said in another tweet.
It is not clear though whether other BJP legislators will follow suit. The BJP has 53 members in a house of 243.
The Bihar government though continues to defend the move to hand out microwave ovens to the legislators from a department that is struggling to pay teachers' salaries in time. "It has been a culture from beginning. The gifts given were cheaper than last year. It was an innovative idea to monitor the midday meals," Mr Chaudhary repeated today.