Opposition ruckus over 'insult' of speaker by Nitish paralyses Bihar assembly

The alleged insult of Bihar assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha by CM Nitish Kumar paralysed House where ruckus created by the opposition over the issue forced repeated adjournments of the proceedings

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar (File photo)
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar (File photo)
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PTI

The alleged insult of Bihar assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar paralysed the House where ruckus created by the opposition over the issue forced repeated adjournments of the proceedings on Tuesday.

Strangely, both Sinha and Kumar chose not to attend the House which was in turmoil over the showdown between the two on the previous day.

While the speaker remained seated inside his chamber, meeting MLAs who dropped in out of curiosity, the chief minister was away in Maner Sharif, a Sufi shrine on the outskirts of the state capital, where he ducked queries from journalists about the stalemate with a cryptic smile and a wave.

MLAs of the RJD, the principal opposition party, had come to the House wearing black badges as a mark of protest against what they saw as a slight inflicted on the Chair by the head of the government.

They were further provoked upon seeing senior BJP leader Prem Kumar in the Chair, when the House first assembled at 11 AM, and after being adjourned till 2 PM met for the post-lunch session.

Opposition members trooped into the well, shouting slogans like "Nitish Kumar Murdabad" and "Nitish Kumar Hosh Mein Aao", forcing the adjournment of proceedings till 4.50 PM.

Earlier, in the pre-lunch session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary sought to defend the chief minister, who "acknowledges the importance of the Chair".

"The CM had some issues with regard to the manner in which the House was being conducted. He had expressed his reservations with utmost humility, with folded hands," Chaudhary said taking exception to opposition MLAs' demand for a "safai" (explanation) from the Chair with regard to Sinha's absence.

"The members would question the Chair and it will have to answer? This shows their poor understanding of democratic and legislative norms," Chaudhary remarked before the House plunged into pandemonium forcing adjournment, within minutes of commencement of proceedings.

The House had witnessed an unprecedented outburst from the chief minister on Monday when an issue relating to Lakhisarai, which is the speaker's assembly constituency, was raised by a couple of members.

The speaker has been miffed with some arrests in a case of prohibition violation in Lakhisarai and the privilege committee had last week recommended action against a couple of police officials who were disrespectful towards Sinha when he broached the matter with them.

The contention of Kumar was that the government was looking into the matter and it was wrong on part of Sinha to allow the matter to be raised inside the House "again and again".

Kumar spoke for a few minutes, quivering with rage and stunning the House into silence. The speaker, who has previously served under Kumar as a cabinet minister, said he respected the latter's knowledge of the Constitution and experience but expressed the helplessness he left in dealing with a recalcitrant bureaucracy.

It is, however, being speculated in political circles that Kumar's loss of cool stemmed from his frustration over having lost the upper hand to the BJP, which had been a junior alliance partner until the 2020 assembly polls.

With far fewer MLAs than the BJP, Kumar returned as chief minister for the fourth consecutive term but had to give his ally many concessions, including a higher number of cabinet berths and, importantly, the post of the Speaker.

In the highest seat of power since 2005, Kumar has always succeeded in having one of his confidants, from his own party JD(U), as the speaker. For his first two terms in office, it was Uday Narayan Chaudhary who has since burnt bridges and moved over to the RJD.

In 2015, when Kumar allied with RJD and returned to power with a few seats less than Lalu Prasad's party, he still had his way and Vijay Kumar Chaudhary was elected to the post of the speaker.

Vijay Kumar Sinha became the first BJP leader in the state's history to have occupied the post, a fact the party likes to flaunt.

The opposition seems to be fishing in troubled waters. Leaders like Tejashwi Yadav and Chirag Paswan have been targeting the chief minister for displaying "arrogance" in dealing with the speaker and demanding an apology.

Pawan Jaiswal, a young BJP MLA, told reporters, "It is the opposition's want to disrupt the House under one pretext or the other. But the current episode is sending a wrong message. The top leadership of JD(U) and BJP should break the deadlock."

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