BJP’s Vijay Kumar Sinha, the man in the middle.
BJP’s Vijay Kumar Sinha, the man in the middle.

BJP’s Vijay Kumar Sinha elected Bihar Speaker amid opposition ruckus

It is the first time in Bihar since 2005 that the BJP has fielded its candidate for the Speaker’s post, on earlier occasions it was bagged by ally JD(U).
By Arun Kumar | Hindustan Times, Patna
UPDATED ON NOV 25, 2020 02:05 PM IST

Vijay Kumar Sinha was on Wednesday elected the Speaker of the 17th Vidhan Sabha in Bihar, becoming the first BJP leader to achieve the feat in the state. Sinha was elected amid ruckus by RJD members who questioned the presence of chief minister Nitish Kumar in the House. CM Kumar is a member of the Legislative Council.

While 126 votes went in favour of the motion for Sinha’s election, 114 were against him. After that, Pro-tem Speaker Jitan Ram Manjhi urged chief minister Nitish Kumar and leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav to escort Vijay Sinha to the chair of the Speaker.

It is the first time in Bihar since 2005 that the BJP has fielded its candidate for the Speaker’s post, on earlier occasions it was bagged by ally JD(U). The JD(U) managed just 43 seats in the recently concluded elections, while the BJP emerged the second biggest party with 74 seats.

As soon as the House assembled, and Manjhi started the procedure for election, the opposition created ruckus demanding a secret ballot. However, Manjhi rejected the demand, saying there was no provision of secret ballot on Constitutional matters. The RJD had fielded Awadh Bihari Choudhary as the Grand Alliance (GA) candidate for the Speaker’s post.

Manjhi called for a voice vote on the motion for election of Speaker and announced the verdict in favour of the NDA candidate, but with the numbers of the Opposition and the treasury benches quite close, the difference was not distinct. The Opposition objected and Manjhi, accepting the objection, called for division.

The opposition, however, again created ruckus, questioning the presence of chief minister Nitish Kumar in the House, as he was not the member of the Vidhan Sabha.

Manjhi said that only the members of the House would participate in voting, but the presence of the chief minister was in the capacity of the leader of the House and there was nothing wrong with it. “I have been a member of the House for the last 40 years and there is nothing wrong with it,” he said, asking the parliamentary affairs minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary to clarify the rules.

Choudhary, who was the Speaker in the 16th Vidhan Sabha, said that it had been an established tradition of the House that the CM remained present in the House even during voting without participation. “He will not participate in voting, but there is nothing wrong in his presence. This is an unnecessary issue and the opposition also knows it. Many a time in the past the CM has remained present in the House during voting, but did not vote,” he added.

In the past, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been seen sitting in the Lok Sabha during voting even though he was a member of the Rajya Sabha.

The Opposition was, however, unrelenting, as it continued shouting slogans, demanding that the CM as well as other two ministers - Ashok Choudhary and Mukesh Sahni - be moved out of the House during voting despite Manjhi’s continued insistence that Kumar was present in the capacity of the leader of the House only. Choudhary and Sahni are not members of any House at present.

The Leader of Opposition, however, said that the rules were being violated right in the presence of the Pro-tem Speaker. “They stole the mandate in 2015 and have again done it. Now, it is happening before the chair. It is a mockery of democracy,” he added, while the opposition members sat in the well.

In the midst of the din, with the opposition unmoved, Manjhi again read out the motion for election of Sinha as the Speaker once again and asked those in favour to stand up for counting. “Your disruption is meaningless and clearly shows that you have some weakness and are trying to stall proceedings. If you have the numbers, go back to your seats and be counted. If you have the numbers, that will show. I have clearly said that those not members of the House would not vote, but they could remain present,” he added.

Despite counting those in favour of the motion for Sinha’s election, the Opposition remained unmoved, disregarding the Chair’s repeated requests to get back to their seats. Later, Manjhi adjourned the House for five minutes.

As soon as the House reassembled, Ajit Sharma urged the Chair for an attendance register, as some outside members were also present, but Manjhi rejected it and ordered those in favour of the motion to stand up once again for counting. Tejashwi Yadav tried to question the presence of the CM, but Manjhi reiterated that he was there as leader of the House.

Later, the Speaker asked those against the motion to stand up for counting. After the counting, the Opposition was again in the well, shouting slogans. Manjhi urged the opposition members to get back to their seats for announcement of results.

Constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap, too, later said that there was nothing wrong in the presence of the CM in the House and the ruling of the Speaker was paramount. “Such things have happened in the past also, but this is the first time such a demand has been raised. The leader of the House can remain present in the House. It appears clearly a political move,” Kashyap added.

The NDA commands 125 members plus it has the support of an independent and the lone member of the LJP. The RJD, with 110 members, was hoping that ‘conscience voting’ will tilt the scale in its favour. The AIMIM’s stand that the Speaker should be a unanimous choice also dampened the opposition alliance’s prospects.

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