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House issues, battle on streets

Patna, Nov. 27: Protests by contract teachers, the tragic death of 17 people in a stampede on Chhath, growing anger against corruption — ahead of the five-day winter session of the legislature that begins on Thursday, the Opposition senses it has a chance to put the government on the mat.

“We plan to raise several issues — the scandal worth thousands of crores in MGNREGA, irregularities in preparing the BPL and APL list, control of the liquor mafia, the deteriorating law and order situation, the injustice meted out to contract teachers,” leader of Opposition in the Assembly Abdul Bari Siddiqui said.

“The issues are many but the session is too short to take them all up,” Siddiqui added.

But more than the short session, what appears to be the biggest handicap of the Opposition is its numerical weakness. The RJD has only 22 MLAs. The combined strength of the Congress, LJP and Left parties is below 10. The JD(U)-BJP alliance, on the other hand, commands 206 seats in the House of 243.

Devoid of effective strength, the RJD is harping more on carrying out its battle on the streets. Party boss Lalu Prasad, who drew reasonable crowds during the first phase of his Parivartan Yatra last month, is scheduled to resume the campaign in the Kosi belt next month.

“It is always better to raise the issues among the people — the eventual masters in a democracy — than in the House, which has intolerant and brute treasury benches,” Siddiqui reasoned.

As part of this strategy, the RJD today brought out a document — grandly called “People’s Chargesheet” — to drive home the “misdeeds” of the government, but the exercise was reduced to a verbal volley with the ruling party.

RJD president Ram Chandra Purbey said chief minister Nitish Kumar suffered from “mental diarrhoea” because his statements do not reflect the ground reality. This drew a sharp retort from the JD(U), whose state spokesperson Sanjay Singh said Purbey’s leader suffered from “mental constipation”.

The sparring did not end there. RJD leaders described Nitish as a “dictator”, invoking as many names from history as they could recall — Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin and even the Czar of Russia. JD(U)’s Sanjay Singh countered that there has been no bigger dictator than Lalu Prasad, who, he said, was facing a situation similar to that of Napoleon after the Waterloo loss.

The RJD document categorised the government’s achievements under the heads of gang rape, kidnapping, criminalisation — a pointer to the issues the party intends to raise in the House.

Senior politicians lamented that the real issues were getting overshadowed by the verbal fencing. A Congress leader, whose party has only four MLAs, said the Nitish government has taken advantage of this lack of focus and remained silent on several legislation formulated during previous sessions.

“For instance, the House passed the Lokayukta bill and the chief minister bragged how he was going to set up a strong Lokayukta which would have the CM, chief secretary, DGP besides all senior ministers and top bureaucrats, in the purview of its investigation. But no initiative has so far been taken to execute the office of the Lokayuta,” he said.