Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday expressed disgust over his arch rival Lalu Prasad’s alleged attempts at poaching MLAs of the NDA and warned that the latter’s antics would only “harm” the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal. Kumar also hinted that he was privy to information about the jailed RJD chief’s machinations, and asserted that the NDA in Bihar, which enjoyed a majority, would grow stronger as Independent members may support it.
“People receiving telephone calls… with enticements like ministerial berths. What type of conduct is this? There has to be a place for maryada (propriety) in politics,” Kumar told reporters outside the Vidhan Sabha premises. Both Houses of the legislature were adjourned sine die after a five-day session of the newly constituted assembly.
Kumar was referring to the submission, on the floor of the House, by BJP MLA Lalan Kumar Paswan that he feared “mental and physical harm” to himself and his family members after having taken the lid off the “powerful” RJD supremo’s machinations. Prasad, who is in Ranchi, serving sentences in fodder scam cases, had allegedly called up Paswan on Tuesday and asked him to remain absent during the election of the Speaker scheduled a day later.
In the telephonic conversation, a purported audio clipping of which has gone viral on the social media, Prasad had told Paswan that the BJP legislator ought not to worry about defying the party whip in the event of the RJD candidate becoming the Speaker and promised him of a ministerial berth upon the fall of the newly formed Nitish Kumar government. RJD candidate Awadh Bihari Chaudhary, however, lost to the BJP’s Vijay Kumar Sinha by eight votes.
Asked about the case lodged by Paswan with the state vigilance department, Kumar said, “Whatever action will be taken, it will be in accordance with the law”. “I have lots of information which I would not like to share in public. But it should be realized that a government has been formed after winning the election. It should be allowed to serve the people.
“Such antics will only harm them, instead of bringing any benefits. The NDA is firmly on the saddle. It will only grow stronger as Independents etc. may support us,” the chief minister said. He also dismissed the repeated allegation of Prasad’s younger son and heir apparent that results were manipulated by pliant officers in favour of the NDA and rubbished the latter’s contention of the ruling coalition getting 15 more seats than the opposition Grand Alliance though the difference in the number of votes garnered by the two coalitions, across 243 constituencies, was just over 12,000.
“There have been so many instances of parties or coalitions polling more votes but ending up with fewer seats.Here, the NDA has polled more votes and won a greater number of seats. So there should not be any misgivings,” Kumar said.
The chief minister, who heads the JD(U), also took exception to the RJD’s repeated taunts that he was occupying the seat of power despite his party finishing third in terms of tally in the assembly elections. “That is not an appropriate thing to say. How would they like it if I were to keep reminding them of their electoral performance in 2010,” said Kumar referring to the assembly elections in which the RJD had won less than 10 per cent of the assembly’s seats while the JD(U)-BJP had grabbed more than 200 of the 243-strong House.
Kumar was also asked about his flare-up on the floor of the Assembly when Tejashwi Yadav repeatedly harped on a murder case of the 1990s in which the chief minister had been named an accused though it was later quashed by the high court. “I don’t like to respond when people make personal attacks. But decorum must be observed while speaking in the House and that includes not taking recourse to untruths. If he (Tejashwi) wants to move ahead in public life, he should keep this in mind,” Kumar said.
Recalling the sequence of events of 2017 that led to his snapping of ties with the RJD after the name of Yadav, then his deputy, cropping up in a money laundering scam, Kumar said, “We were together. What more did I ask for except that he explain his position after a raid was conducted?” “Now a charge-sheet has been filed against him. Do you not owe an answer to the people if you are in public life? So I had to leave. It is another thing that the BJP came out with its support and I formed a new government,” said the Chief Minister. He also sought to dismiss the personal attack by Yadav who sought to rake up an election speech in which Kumar had made uncharitable remarks about Prasad having a large family with nine children.
“It was said in jest. I was speaking about the improved fertility rate in the state following women’s empowerment. In that context, I made an oblique reference. It should not be taken to heart,” Kumar said.