Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi outside the Assembly. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh
Patna, May 23: The government today won the confidence motion in the Assembly unopposed as the BJP MLAs staged a walkout, even as Jitan Ram Manjhi fought the image of a rubber-stamp chief minister.
The dubbing of Manjhi as a “rubber stamp” chief minister appeared to haunt him in the Assembly. Initiating the debate, leader of Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav called Manjhi’s elevation as a “side-effect”.
“Had not a son of a poor backward caste (member) who sold tea in his childhood not been elected the Prime Minister, you would not have been elevated as the chief minister of the state,” said Yadav, pointing out that side-effects of the BJP’s win were clear in all the so-called social justice parties, including JD(U), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and RJD, who had been marginalised in the Lok Sabha polls.
“It is because of this change, acche din aaya hai (good days have come) for you,” Yadav said.
Manjhi, 68, hit back.
“To say that I am weak because I belong to the Mahadalit community shows a Manuwadi (a sense of superiority) trend in you. I have been an MLA for six terms and have been associated with the state’s colleges and universities. Yet they (BJP) call me a remote-controlled chief minister. The former chief minister has not selected a statue of wax to succeed him,” he told the legislators.
He praised his predecessor, Nitish Kumar, as a person who genuinely understood the plight of Mahadalits and respected them. The confidence motion was passed unopposed as the BJP MLAs staged a walkout protesting against the failure of the JD(U) government to speak anything about the “unholy alliance formed with the RJD and Congress”.
The RJD’s leader in the Assembly, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, declared that his party had extended outside support to the government for keeping the BJP at bay. “We will keep revising our support on the basis of the government’s performance,” he said.
Nitish, who was not present in the House when the confidence vote was taken at a special session, slammed the BJP for staging a walkout before the trust vote on Facebook. “The BJP walked out of House like cowards,” he wrote on his Facebook page. He alleged that the BJP leaders could not face Manjhi when he was presenting his vision of development of the state.
The BJP bench had been jubilant in the Assembly because of the party’s victory in the Lok Sabha polls.
Sporting saffron caps and scarves, they raised the slogan: “Delhi jeet liya, ab Patna ki bari hai (We have won Delhi, now it is the turn of Patna).” It resulted in a verbal duel between the JD(U) and BJP MLAs.
Before the House started its business at 11am, Manjhi met Yadav and exchanged greetings. Four BJP MPs, including Ashwini Choubey and Janardan Singh Sigriwal, who were present in the House today were congratulated by the JD(U) members, but soon all the pleasantries evaporated.
Yadav, during the debate, told the chief minister that the BJP would have been happy had he headed the government in the natural course. “The JD(U) says you are a stop-gap arrangement and they will fight the 2015 Assembly elections under the leadership of former chief minister Nitish Kumar. Everybody knows what happened to Rabri Devi and Manmohan Singh. It is an insult to Mahadalits,” Yadav said.
He also recalled that when the JD(U) snapped ties with the BJP last year, the party had asked the JD(U) government to seek a fresh mandate. “The JD(U) told us that in the 2010 Assembly elections, the NDA won by showing the face of Nitish Kumar. What happened to that face?” he asked.
He also questioned Nitish’s claim of doing politics of morality and principles as well as the party’s alliance with the RJD.
Speaking on the RJD support, Manjhi, said: “We already have the support of 121 MLAs, apart from the Congress’s. Yet I will thank them for extending the support because they also speak about deprived sections of society.”
He alleged that the JD(U) got less votes in the general election because of the communalised atmosphere created in the state. “One party spent Rs 8,000 crore on advertisement in Bihar,” Manjhi said in a reference to the BJP’s election campaign.
Yadav although challenged him to prove that the BJP had spent such an amount in Bihar. “If you can prove it, I am willing to quit politics,” he said.
Manjhi, although, did not respond to the challenge and continued to list out achievements of the government under the “honourable former chief minister Nitish Kumar”, including increasing development rate and improvement in the condition of minorities and in the energy sector.
Later, Manjhi told The Telegraph that he would expand his ministry soon.