Nitish wins trust vote in Bihar

Nitish wins trust vote in Bihar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday won a vote of confidence in the Assembly with a comfortable margin, three days after he dumped the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and severed ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Amid a walkout by the 91-member BJP, the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) got 126 votes in favour while 24 MLAs voted against him.

Nitish, who has 118 legislators in the 243-member House, was already in a commanding position with the assured support of four out of six Independents. But on Wednesday, when the four-member Congress extended its unconditional support to him, the numbers in his favour swelled.

The lone CPI member, Awadesh Kumar Rai, also backed the confidence motion. But the Lok Janshakti Party member,  Zakir Khan, walked out of the House.

This was contrary to LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s stand who had asked his only MLA to vote against the motion.

The walkout by the BJP and the LJP reduced the strength of the House and the votes required for a comfortable majority was 77, instead of the earlier 122. During the trial of strength, except the 22 members of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and two Independents, others present in the House voted in favour of the motion.
The confidence motion also set the ball rolling for a fresh realignment of forces in Bihar.

 Two days ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Kumar “secular.” And the JD-U strongman reciprocated by thanking the prime minister. On Wednesday, the four-member Congress Legislature Party (CLP) here decided to back Kumar. Though the chief minister later clarified that much should not be read into Congress support to his party, he has left some room for further poll pact by saying that “no one knows what will happen in future.”

Political analysts here argue that loss of the BJP, which got nearly 16 per cent votes in 2010 Assembly elections, could be offset if the Congress (9 per cent) and the Left (6 per cent) join hands with Kumar. After all, the JD-U with 23 per cent votes, in alliance with the BJP, had wrested 206 out of the 243 seats in the 2010 Assembly elections.

Against this backdrop, a shrewd Kumar would like to realign with like-minded parties, barring the RJD and the BJP. He has already split the LJP and merged the breakaway faction with the JD-U thereby making Paswan irrelevant in his home State.

By further splitting dalits (Paswan’s supporters) into Mahadalits, he has eaten into Paswan’s constituency and can bank upon the Congress for Muslims, dalits and a sizeable section of upper caste votes. The Left, with its hold over the minorities and most backward classes, could help Kumar form a lethal combination and give the BJP (upper caste) and the RJD (Yadavs and a small fraction of OBCs/Muslims) a run for their money.

That leaves Lalu and Paswan, who have been tirelessly trying to woo the Congress, in a pathetic state. Contesting against a possible JDU-Congress-Communists combine and the BJP in a triangular fight may prove worse for Lalu Prasad than the 2009 and 2010 election results. No wonder he said  on Wednesday, “The Congress is a samajdar party and won’t enter into any alliance in haste.”

The BJP has, however, vowed to expose Nitish Kumar’s double standard and not allow him to repeat his 2010 feat. Participating in the debate, senior BJP leader and the new Leader of the Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav accused Kumar of deceit and said the way all the 11 BJP ministers had been dismissed was “quite humiliating,” particularly after running together a coalition government in Bihar for nearly eight years.

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