| Governor Devanand Konwar addresses the joint session of the legislature on Monday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Patna, Feb. 18: The Janata Dal (United) found an unlikely ally in the Opposition which today launched an attack on Governor Devanand Konwar inside the Assembly.
Konwar’s address on the opening day of the budget session was drowned by interruptions and slogans as a group of Opposition members openly accused him of taking bribe in exchange for the appointment of vice-chancellors.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar has publicly said that the governor, in his capacity as chancellor of the state’s universities, did not carry out the mandatory consultation with the government while appointing the VCs. In December last year, the high court had quashed the appointment of six VCs on the ground that the mandatory consultation with the government was not carried out by Raj Bhavan.
Konwar’s entry into the Assembly was marked by catcalls from the RJD benches as its members urged the governor to speak from his heart rather than from the written speech. “They want you to speak the truth about Bihar,” Abdul Bari Siddiqui, the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, said.
But once Konwar started to read out from his speech (that is prepared by the government), Congress MLC Kumari Jyoti asked him what was the price tag for the post of vice-chancellors in Bihar? “Was it Rs 1 crore or Rs 3 crore?” she asked.
RJD members, led by Raghvendra Pratap Singh, provided the “answer”, stating that the price was “Rs 1 crore”. As the Opposition slogans accusing the governor of taking bribes enjoyed the gleeful approval of the NDA benches, Konwar appeared to lose his cool midway through his speech.
He pointed out that the Congress MLC, Kumari Jyoti, was creating disturbance inside the House. After the joint session of the state legislature, Congress MLCs remarked Jyoti had not made any direct charges against the governor but had only urged him to say something about the “irregularities” in the appointment of VCs.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar, who sat through the proceedings, later told mediapersons he had not heard what the noise was all about.
Konwar though enjoyed momentary relief when RJD’s Akhtrul Imam read out a portion on the government’s welfare schemes for students from the minority community. The House’s attention was directed towards Imam’s interruption, who said: “The government is holding Surya namaskar drills in government schools at the behest of the RSS.”
At this, some hardline BJP members stormed into the Well protesting against his remark. Led by Hajipur MLA Nityanand Rai, the group stormed into the Well demanding apology from the RJD. They shouted slogans of “Vande Mataram” and chanted “NaMo, NaMo” (referring to Narendra Modi).
Health minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey and animal and fish resources minister Giriraj Singh were also seen shouting at the RJD bench. Choubey went on to declare that anyone opposing Surya namaskar was anti-national.
The JD(U) members remained silent spectators even as charges and counter charges flew between the RJD and the BJP. It was left to senior members from both sides to restore order in the House.
Md. Aaftab Alam, coordinator (Bihar), Social Democratic Party of India, also filed a complaint today in the court of chief judicial magistrate against deputy chief minister Modi, education minister P.K. Shahi, secondary education director Kamal Kumar Sinha and manager of Moinul Haque Stadium, on the same issue, stating that the society only bowed before Khuda.
The government has already clarified that the drill of Surya namaskar for Bihar Divas would be optional.