Ahead of floor test, JD(U) issues whip, RJD moves its lawmakers to Tejashwi’s residence in Bihar
The JD(U) whip came after at least five of its total 45 MLAs failed to turn up at a luncheon meeting organised at the house of party leader Shravan Kumar.
Patna: Political activities intensified in Bihar on Saturday ahead of the February 12 floor test of the Nitish Kumar government, with the Janata Dal (United) issuing a whip to its legislators to be present in the assembly during the vote while the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) shifted all its MLAs and MLCs to a temporary shelter at Tejashwi Yadav’s residence in Patna, people familiar with the developments said.
The JD(U) whip came after at least five of its total 45 MLAs failed to turn up at a luncheon meeting organised at the house of party leader and state minister Shravan Kumar on Saturday. Of the five MLAs, two are said to be out of the state while one was undergoing medical treatment, a JD(U) insider said.
“A whip has been issued, directing MLAs to remain present in the House and vote in favour of the government whenever the occasion arises,” Shravan Kumar told reporters, describing the move as a “routine exercise” before an assembly session.
The rural welfare minister warned that MLAs defying the whip would have to face “consequences”, including “losing their membership”.
The floor test has been necessitated after Nitish Kumar took oath as chief minister of Bihar for a record ninth time on January 28 following a dramatic volte-face, ditching the grand alliance it shared with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress to form a new government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which he had dumped less than 18 months ago.
Meanwhile, political circles were abuzz with speculations of a nail-biting floor test owing to a wafer-thin majority of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the 243-member assembly. The NDA has the support of 128 legislators — BJP’s 78, JD(U)’s 45, Hindustan Awam Morcha-Secular (four) and one independent — six more than the majority mark. The four legislators from former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi-led HAM-S gave the NDA a cushion in case of any last-minute dissension in the ruling parties.
The opposition Mahagathbandhan has the support of 115 MLAs, including RJD’s 79, Congress’s 19, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation’s 12 and five from other smaller partners.
On Saturday morning, CPI(ML) leader Mahboob Alam met Manjhi, raising speculation of a last-minute understanding. While Alam later described the meeting as a “courtesy call” to enquire about Manjhi’s health, the HAM-S leader sounded confident of the NDA sailing through the floor test.
“Nitish Kumar has the support of 128 MLAs. Everyone will vote in his favour on February 12. There is no chance that the government will collapse,” Manjhi, whose party has also issued a whip to its four legislators, said.
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The opposition RJD on Saturday moved its 79 MLAs and eight MLCs to a temporary shelter in former deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav’s 5, Deshratn Marg residence to quell possibility of “horse-trading” attempts by the ruling alliance, a party functionary said.
“All arrangements for a comfortable stay for the legislators have been made at the residence of Tejashwi Yadav. There is no restriction on movement of any legislator,” an RJD MLA said, requesting anonymity.
On Saturday evening, the 12 MLAs of the CPI-ML(Liberation) also attended a meeting at Tejashwi Yadav’s residence. The CPI-ML(Liberation) is part of the RJD-led grand alliance along with the Congress, which has already spirited away its MLAs to a resort near Hyderabad, the capital of party-ruled Telangana.
Reacting to the development, the BJP accused the RJD of keeping its leaders under “house arrest”.
“Sensing uneasiness among some RJD MLAs, the party has put them under house arrest. On the other hand, the RJD is trying to grab headlines by making all kinds of statements. In reality, the NDA is comfortable and confident from day one,” BJP leader Nikhil Anand said.
(With inputs from Anirban Guha Roy)