(From left) Poonam Devi, Ravindra Rai and Gyanendra Singh Gyanu in Patna on Friday. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Patna, June 6: Dissidence in the JDU got a fillip today with at least four of its MLAs parroting what the BJP had been saying about new chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi — a dummy of Nitish Kumar — and claiming that the party could survive without the latter.
“Manjhi is a dummy. The real power is held by Nitish,” said Poonam Devi, the party’s MLA from the Digha Assembly segment. She addressed a news conference with legislators Ravindra Rai (from Mahua in Vaishali district), Gyanendra Singh Gyanu (from Barh in Patna) and Madan Sahni (from Bahadurpur in Darbhanga).
Rai went a step ahead and declared that the JDU could survive even without Nitish.
The outburst against Nitish has come to the open after the recent expansion of the Manjhi government. Denial of ministerial berths appears to be just one of the reasons for the sudden spurt in dissidence. The bigger issue is the debacle of the JDU in the general election. The NDA bagged 31 seats, while the JDU got only two.
Several JDU MLAs are said to be jittery about their future in the Assembly polls due next year. Dal led in only 17 of the 243 Assembly segments in the Lok Sabha polls.
“In several Assembly segments the JD(U) has trailed by over 20,000 votes. It is considered a too large margin to make up for the sitting JDU MLAs in the next Assembly polls and so many of them are thinking of changing sides to the NDA,” said a JDU MLA, stressing that many dissident MLAs were in contact with the BJP leaders. The dissident legislator claimed that they numbered 50.
Nitish loyalists, however, believe that the number of dissidents was much lower. Till date, only three have aired their grievance against Nitish in public apart from the four addressing the news meet today. But even Nitish loyalists conceded that the number might swell.
The four dissident MLAs charged the state government with phone tapping of at least 50 party MLAs and some opposition leaders. “The surveillance of telephones and cellphone sets of the party MLAs and some opposition leaders was being done at the behest of 1 Aney Marg (the chief minister’s official residence) and the police headquarters is involved in it. We shall lodge our protest by writing to the Union home minister Rajnath Singh. The phone tapping of legislators and political leaders is illegal and undemocratic,” said Mohua MLA Rai, dubbing Nitish a hypocrite.
“Nitish asked legislators to live in rented house for Rs 28,500 per month. In his own case, the selection of his house has been changed four times,” he added.
Poonam Devi said the JDU legislators and party workers were demoralised. “Nitish is surrounded by sycophants and power-brokers. Those who openly abused him have been made MLCs and ministers. It has become a party of bhagoras (deserters),” she said, alleging that a minister and a JDU MP made money from the transfer of officials.
The immediate concern for the JDU following the spurt in dissidence is the possibility of cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha bypolls for three seats to be held soon if an Independent candidate decides to contest with the backing of the BJP MLAs. The dissident MLAs have hinted that they might either cross-vote or abstain. The second concern is the long budget session of the Assembly starting in the last week of June. The treasury has to pass several money bills.
The RJD also had its share of dissent on Friday. Just two days after former Union minister A.A. Fatimi quit the party alleging that Lalu Prasad worked under the influence of Rajya Sabha MP Prem Gupta, newly elected MP from Madhepura Pappu Yadav today said Lalu should realise that he must get rid of “promoting dynasty, sycophants and power-brokers” if he wanted to rebuild the party.