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Nitish crosses 122, Cong by his side

Patna, June 19: The JD(U) today sailed through the confidence motion in the Assembly with the support of four Congress legislators, an equal number of Independents and the lone CPI member, ushering in a new era in Bihar politics three days after snapping ties with the BJP.

Against the 122 votes required for simple majority, the JD(U) secured 126. Only 24 votes went against the motion as the 91 BJP members walked out, accusing chief minister Nitish Kumar of “betraying” the people’s mandate.

The 22 RJD MLAs and two Independents — Dilip Verma and Jyoti Rashmi — voted against the motion. The lone Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) legislator abstained.

As Nitish moved his trust motion sharp at 11am, the House reverberated with thunderous slogans, Desh ka neta kaisa ho, Narendra Modi jaisa ho. The deafening roars in favour of their new mascot sounded like the outburst of a party that had been gagged by Nitish’s whip and coalition compulsions.

Nitish, replying to the debate on the motion, highlighted the sloganeering to justify his decision. In measured but grave words, he said: “The pitch of the slogans has justified my apprehensions about what the BJP had in store on the issue of the prime ministerial candidate. The sloganeering strongly indicates that some people are trying to run India in a dictatorial fashion. I feel relieved at having snapped ties at the right time. Had I heeded to the false plea for more time on the issue, I would have been caught off-guard.”

Nitish denied that there was a “wave” in favour of someone (read Narendra Modi) and predicted doom for the BJP in the 2014 elections.

What might have boosted the morale of the chief minister, whose party had been reduced to a minority (118 members, including the Speaker) after its split with the BJP, is that the Congress and CPI immediately put their stamp of approval on his secular credentials by voting in favour of the motion.

At the same time, it would have dismayed Lalu Prasad, so far the sole effective crusader for secularism and claimant of the 16 per cent Muslim vote and a leader who enjoyed the Congress’s and Left’s support for large parts of the RJD’s 15-year rule.

However, the Congress clarified that the support on the floor of the Assembly should not be seen beyond the proceedings.

“Supporting the government on the floor of the House should in no way be interpreted as a move for any political alliance in future. In the Congress’s considered opinion, it was the demand of the time to support the JD(U), which had taken a secular path by breaking ranks with the NDA and the BJP,” the Congress’s media in-charge, Premchand Mishra, said.

Nitish, who profusely congratulated the Congress and Left for supporting him, later clarified the JD(U)’s position in an exclusive chat with The Telegraph. “We have not yet worked out who our future alliance partners would be. As of now, I can only congratulate Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the CPI for extending their support to us in our struggle to maintain the secular ethos of India.”

Pleading in support of his motion in the House, Nitish took the level of his deliberations well beyond merely saving his government. He attacked Narendra Modi, once again without naming him. “The state (read Gujarat), which boasts about its model of development, offers only about Rs 100 per day as minimum wage against Rs 162 being given in Bihar,” Nitish said. “We cannot accept a model that is not sensitive to the backward states and marginalised people. We are for inclusive growth.”

Earlier, the newly anointed leader of Opposition, Nand Kishore Yadav, who was the road construction minister until three days ago, accused Nitish of betraying the mandate of the people.

“You (Nitish) were a simple and honest person like us as long as you were in our company,” Nand Kishore said. “But soon after befriending the Congress, you have resorted to jugad tantra (manipulation) that has found reflection in the manner in which you roped in Independents and the Congress, a party you have fought against since your JP movement days.”

RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui, who lost his leader of Opposition mantle to Nand Kishore, said the JD(U) was nothing but a “BJP led by L.K. Advani.” “Earlier, we had to deal with one communal BJP. Now, we have to confront two such outfits — one led by Narendra Modi and another by L.K. Advani,” he said.