Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar comfortably won today the crucial trust vote after a vitriol- filled debate where he defended his decision to return to the NDA fold, saying the opposition should not teach him a lesson in secularism.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar comfortably won today the crucial trust vote after a vitriol- filled debate where he defended his decision to return to the NDA fold, saying the opposition should not teach him a lesson in secularism. The 131-108 result of the floor test, held a day after he took office for the sixth time, jettisoning the RJD and embracing former ally BJP, was a foregone conclusion given the numerical superiority of the bloc supporting his government. Four members in the 243-member house could not vote, reducing the total strength of the house during the trust vote to 239. With the effective strength of the House reduced to 239 during voting, Bihar’s new government needed 120 votes to win the confidence vote. Replying to the debate on the confidence vote, Kumar tore into the likes of Lalu Prasad and others who criticised him for returning to the BJP-led NDA’s fold. “People (the opposition) should not teach me lessons in secularism. Secularism is to be practised. I cannot be with people who commit the sin of amassing property through corrupt means while hiding behind the shield of secularism,” he said. In his brief 10-minute speech, Kumar said,”I asked him (Tejashwi) to explain his position on graft allegations against him, but he was not in a position to respond.” He narrated events that preceded his decision to walk out of the grand alliance on July 26. Kumar said he followed “coalition ethics” and rebutted the charge that he betrayed people’s mandate, which his detractors claimed, was for the grand alliance. “The mandate was for good work and transparency,” he said. “The people’s court is the biggest court and it is my duty to serve people. I cannot serve just one family,” he said, insisting it had become very difficult for him to run the coalition government.
Earlier, soon after Kumar moved the motion seeking confidence of the House, a rancorous debate ensued, with his former deputy Tejashwi Yadav mounting an all-out attack on him, calling his decision to join hands with the BJP “dhokha” (betrayal) with the people of Bihar. Yadav’s speech was repeatedly punctuated by the word as he blamed Kumar for the disintegration of the grand alliance in the state which also included the Congress. “Nitish Kumar made me a ‘mohra’ (pawn) to build his image. The entire action (of seeking his resignation) was just an excuse so he could go with BJP,” Yadav, who along with his father and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, and mother Rabri Devi have been made an accused in the hotels-for-land scandal case, said. Yadav said Kumar, whom he referred to as his “guru” and “chacha” (uncle), despite having the epithet “vikas purush” (man of development), cannot win elections on his own. He cited the Assembly polls of 1995 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections when his party could secure just seven and two seats respectively.
In his speech, Kumar said the decision to ally with the BJP was in the best interest of Bihar. Now that there is an NDA government in the state and another at the Centre, the state will scale new heights of development, he said. Apparently targeting Rahul Gandhi, who had said he had gone back to the NDA fold to meet his “selfish” ends, Kumar, without taking any names, said in the 2015 Assembly polls Lalu Prasad was not prepared to spare for the Congress more than 15-20 seats, and it was he who intervened and ensured they got 40 seats to contest out of which the party won 27.
The four MLAs who could not vote today included RJD’s Raj Ballabh Yadav, who is in jail. Anand Shankar Pandey of BJP is undergoing treatment outside Bihar. Sudarshan of the Congress turned up for voting but by then the doors of the lobbies had been closed for the division vote. Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary did not participate in the voting.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi did not take part in the voting as both are members of the Legislative Council. However, they were present in the house. The 131 votes in favour of Nitish Kumar comprised JD(U) 70, BJP 52, HAM 1, RLSP 2, LJP 2 and Independent 4. The 108 votes against the motion included 79 of RJD, Congress 26 and CPI-ML 3. Senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui’s demand for a secret vote was rejected by the speaker.