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Salary hope for out-of-work MLAs

New Delhi, May 17: The Centre issued a notification today to pave the way for MLAs in Bihar ' where no breakthrough on government formation is in sight ' to get their salaries.

The Bihar Legislature (members’ salaries, allowances and pension) Act, 1960, bars MLAs from drawing their salaries till they have taken the oath of affirmation.

Since no party was in a position to form the government after the February elections threw up a fractured verdict, the state came under President’s rule on March 7.

The Assembly was put in suspended animation, with no member taking oath.

The Centre today issued a notification as a prelude to bringing an ordinance to amend the law. Most other states have a provision for paying salaries to their legislators under similar conditions.

The move will give relief to Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party MLAs were the most restive and vocal about forming a government with either the Rashtriya Janata Dal or the National Democratic Alliance.

The legislators have been going without their salaries, which adds up to an amount between Rs 10,000 and Rs 11,000 a month besides facilities of rail travel, telephone and government accommodation.

Amid speculation that both the NDA and Laloo Prasad Yadav’s RJD were trying to lure his 29 MLAs, who hold the key to government formation, Paswan took up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi last month.

LJP legislator Pashupati Kumar Paras, who is also Paswan’s brother, said the ordinance was a result of efforts made by the party.

“When we met Congress president Sonia Gandhi recently, we had stressed the need for an ordinance. Our efforts have borne fruit. The next step will be the formation of a popular government in the state,” Paras said.

But not satisfied with just the prospect of getting their salaries, Bihar’s MLAs are demanding the Rs 1-crore annual constituency development fund they are entitled to. Under the law, they can’t access the fund either till they take oath.

Senior RJD MLA Shakeel Ahmed Khan said the legislators should have been provided their salaries right from the day they were notified elected by the Election Commission. “Obviously they should be given the salary and the Rs 1-crore fund should also be sanctioned,” he said.

On the other side of the political spectrum, senior BJP legislator Ashwini Kumar Chaubey echoed the view that the law should have been changed at the start.

“Development work has come to a standstill during the past five months. The central rule has made no difference in the situation as the same pack of people continues to call the shots in Bihar. MLAs are not being called even to district- level development meetings. This ordinance is a lollypop and the need of the time is the installation of a popular government,” he said.

State CPI-ML secretary Ram Jatan Sharma said the provision was not a “departure from tradition” but the more pressing issues of hunger deaths and drought-like conditions should be addressed.

“Launching food-for-work programmes is more important. The Congress is doing injustice to the state in the garb of central rule. Provision of salary is a minor issue,” he said.

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