3 months after Jharkhand minister Jagarnath Mahto’s death, wife Bebi Devi inducted into Cabinet


The Jharkhand government Monday inducted former minister Jagarnath Mahto’s wife Bebi Devi into the state Cabinet. A notification issued by the principal secretary said Devi will hold the Excise and Prohibition portfolio.

Jagarnath Mahto, 57, passed away on April 6 this year at a Chennai hospital. He had been suffering from health complications following a lung transplant in 2020 which he underwent after a Covid-19 infection. Chief Minister Hemant Soren had mourned Mahto’s death saying: “Tiger Jagarnath Da is no more! Today Jharkhand has lost one of its great agitators, a combative, hardworking and popular leader.”

Mahto was a four-time MLA from Dumri Assembly constituency. In Soren’s Cabinet, he held the excise and education portfolios.

Known as “Tiger” in Jharkhand, Mahto joined politics under the tutelage of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) founder Binod Bihari Mahato and plunged into the Jharkhand Andolan – a decades-old JMM-led agitation for the separate tribal state of Jharkhand. Jharkhand was finally carved out of Bihar as a separate state in November 2000.

Mahatos are a substantial vote bank in Jharkhand with the Mahatos (Kurmi) constituting around 25 per cent of the state’s total population. A source said: “Given the fact that many Mahatos have disagreements with Hemant Soren, but are united in their respect of Jagarnath Mahato, it is prudent that his wife gets a Cabinet seat.”

To continue as the Cabinet minister, Bebi Devi has to contest and win an election within the next six months. Sources said she is likely to run from Dumri constituency.

Devi is the second person to get a ministerial berth in the Soren government after the death of a family member. In October 2020, JMM minister Haji Hussain Ansari died of Covid-related complications. His son Hafizul Ansari was then entrusted with the Minority Affairs and Sports portfolios and he subsequently won the Madhupur Assembly bypoll.


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