Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the ‘born-again’ Janata Dal (United)-BJP government will shortly face a test of strength in the Assembly – a hurdle it is expected to clear easily. The trust vote will kick-start the Assembly’s Budget session.
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Moments after Nitish Kumar sought the Assembly’s support, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav spoke, and began by accusing the Chief Minister of betraying the people.
In a lengthy speech filled with sarcastic jibes and takedowns of his former ally, Mr Yadav warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the JDU chief’s ‘paltu Kumar’ sobriquet. “Can PM ‘guarantee’ he won’t flip again?” he asked to cheers of approval from party members.
Tejashwi Yadav also hit out at the decision to award former Bihar Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur, who was Nitish Kumar’s mentor, suggesting the honour was part of a “deal”. “I am happy Karpoori Thakur got Bharat Ratna. They (the BJP) made a deal… ‘come with us and we will give you (the JDU) a Bharat Ratna’…” he declared.
Earlier Awadh Bihari Choudhary was removed as Speaker; he failed a no-confidence motion of his own, with 125 members voting to sack him. Mr Choudhary is from the RJD, which was dumped last month by Nitish Kumar, less than two years after he cut ties with the BJP.
The BJP-JDU have 128 seats in the 243-member Assembly; the majority mark is 122. The BJP has 78 seats. The JDU has 45. The RJD has 79 seats, the Congress 19, and a Left Front 16. The JDU-BJP will clear this test, more so since three RJD lawmakers are sitting with Nitish Kumar; the entire trust vote was preceded by rumours of several RJD MLAs going “missing”.
In that context, senior police officers visited the Patna residence Tejashwi Yadav late Sunday evening, after his party’s lawmaker, Chetan Anand was declared “missing”. Mr Anand was one of the three MLAs spotted sitting in Nitish Kumar’s side of the Assembly in this session.
Nitish Kumar took oath as Chief Minister for a ninth time last month, saying the mahagathbandhan – the alliance the RJD – was “not right”. Sources, however, said Nitish was more upset about the lack of clarity in the INDIA opposition bloc’s poll prep. He was reportedly also upset over the bloc snubbing him as a possible prime ministerial face.
As a result, Nitish Kumar ditched the mahagathbandan and INDIA and formed a new government with the BJP. Often mocked as “paltu Kumar”, for his many flip-flops, the Bihar Chief Minister met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi last week, after which he said he would “never” again leave the party-led National Democratic Alliance.
Nitish Kumar’s quitting of INDIA has left the bloc – formed last year to unite the opposition and defeat the BJP – on the verge of breaking up, after Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Aam Aadmi Party both said they intend to go their own way, for now.
The JDU-BJP tie-up has also been seen as a crucial win for the latter before a Lok Sabha election due in a few weeks. Bihar sends 40 MPs to the Lower House. In the last election he JDU and the BJP, as allies, contested 17 seats each and the JDU won 16 seats.
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