The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihar BJP grabs burning issue

Jan. 4: The Congress, which has bailed out the Rabri Devi government in Bihar twice earlier, is on a sticky wicket following the alleged fake encounter killing of three Patna students by police on December 28.

The incident has energised the BJP and its student wing, ABVP, and the two organisations plan to use the issue and the subsequent violence to mount an anti-Laloo Prasad campaign in the state.

On its part, the Bihar government avoided confrontation with Opposition parties by ordering a CBI probe into the deaths of the students. The state government also asked the CBI to probe the killing of two men in Majhauli area of Begusarai district on the night of December 2.

But this is unlikely to satisfy the BJP, which would like the Congress to withdraw support to the Rashtriya Janata Dal government and pave the way for imposition of President’s rule. The Congress is, however, unlikely to ditch Laloo Prasad Yadav, an ardent opponent of the BJP who campaigned for the Congress in the Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat Assembly elections.

This will not bother the BJP too much as party sources say either way the advantage will lie with the party. If the Congress does not ditch Rabri and her government completes its term, the BJP will occupy the anti- Laloo Prasad space by sustaining the agitation and marginalising even allies such as the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United).

The strategy is to prod the students to lead the agitation, which will also target the Congress for propping up the Rabri regime.

“There is tremendous resentment against the Rabri regime, against the violence, misrule, corruption and backwardness of the state. The Congress, by sticking to RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, has alienated a major segment and even those who are not traditional BJP supporters are slowly turning to the saffron party as the Samata and JD(U) leaders are only marginal players,” said a BJP strategist.

The BJP is really calling the shots in the ongoing agitation against the state government, though parties like the Samata, the JD(U) and the Lok Janashakti Party are also on the forefront. In all the demonstrations, two-thirds of the supporters were from the BJP.

Without Congress backing in the Rajya Sabha, invoking Article 356 in Bihar is not possible. If the Rajya Sabha — where the Opposition is in a majority — rejects any Bill, it could be sent a second time and the Upper House would be duty-bound to approve it.

However, in the case of imposing President’s Rule, both Houses have to separately ratify the imposition of Article 356. This also rules out a joint session of Parliament, which could have seen the BJP through.

Lok Janashakti chief Ram Vilas Paswan had on Wednesday suggested that a joint session of Parliament be convened to put Bihar under Central rule.

Sources said the students’ agitation would be intensified once the universities reopen on January.

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