New Delhi, May 23: The President today dissolved the Bihar Assembly after an early morning recommendation from the cabinet, setting the state on course to a second election inside a calendar year.
As the Election Commission said it would soon sit to decide a date, the National Democratic Alliance expressed determination to take on Manmohan Singh’s government over a move in which it saw shades of Emergency.
BJP president L.K. Advani wondered if the midnight meeting of the cabinet at which the dissolution was decided presaged more “serious” developments and if it was a coincidence that Emergency was declared in June 1975. “We have to launch a JP Narayan-like andolan,” he said.
The NDA will fight the battle “legally and politically” through a Bihar bandh tomorrow and a series of protest meetings expected to culminate in a rally in Patna. The alliance said it would also parade 130 MLAs that it claimed it had in its corral before Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Around 1.30 am, the cabinet decided to recommend dissolution of the Assembly. Home minister Shivraj Patil explained the decision was taken after governor Buta Singh sent his second report.
Patil said the report recommended dissolution as unconstitutional steps were being taken by parties to win over MLAs. “One group in the state was trying horse-trading by winning over MLAs belonging to the other political group,” Patil added.
“Efforts were being made to fly some MLAs from Jamshedpur to other places. To prevent the situation from getting further polluted, the cabinet decided to dissolve the Assembly.”
A group of MLAs from Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) was holed up in a farmhouse at Ghatshila near Jamshedpur under the protection of BJP-ruled Jharkhand’s police force.
Paswan is a member of the Singh government and had allied with the Congress in the election.
Observers said there was no precedent of an Assembly being dissolved before being convened and its members taking oath.
The NDA contended its candidate for chief minister, Janata Dal(U)’s Nitish Kumar, had missed the bus by a “few hours”. Demanding that polls must be held as quickly as possible, it sought the replacement of Buta Singh, who was labelled a UPA spokesman, by an “apolitical appointee”.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee condemned the dissolution as “undemocratic” and declared that “people will answer this challenge and reply to all efforts to throttle democracy”.
Nitish Kumar said the transfer of two district collectors last week allegedly at Laloo Prasad Yadav’s behest started a churning in the LJP.
“It appeared as though President’s rule was Laloo rule. The LJP MLAs who were elected on an anti-Laloo mandate were disillusioned with Paswan,” he said.
Paswan is possibly the biggest loser in the game, reduced as he has been from the role of a kingmaker, with 29 MLAs, after the February election in a hung Assembly to a politician without any cards to play.
The Congress, which has been accused by its allies at the Centre of ruining the chances of an anti-NDA alliance by breaking up the winning combination of the Lok Sabha polls a year ago, now believes a realignment of forces is inevitable before the election.
While not a great deal might be expected to change in the NDA combine, the Congress and Laloo Prasad, along with the Left parties, are likely to come together again.
For Paswan, the choice will be far more difficult. He has just fought one election ' both against Laloo Prasad and the NDA.
But the last election made one thing clear, the UPA can hope to win only if all its constituents fight together.