Patna, June 17: Lalu Prasad continued to keep Nitish Kumar guessing on which way his legislators will vote in Thursday’s Rajya Sabha bypolls in which the JDU candidates are locked in a contest with the party’s dissident brigade.
The legislators’ meeting called by both the RJD and JDU were marked by absentees. Till 7.30pm, more than two dozen of the 117 MLAs of JDU had turned up with several of the known dissidents giving the meeting a miss. Even at the RJD meeting called by Lalu, at least half-a-dozen MLAs remained absent. Both the parties were tight-lipped over the decision taken in the meeting.
The RJD meeting to decide if they should support the JDU candidates — Pawan Varma and Ghulam Rasool Baliabi — following Nitish’s appeal to Lalu remained inconclusive. “The party has authorised Lalu Prasad to take the final call. There will be another meeting of MLAs at 3pm tomorrow,” said leader of the RJD in the Assembly Abdul Bari Siddiqui.
The Bihar Assembly building was witness to a sideshow today as Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary had called two women dissident MLAs — Renu Kushwaha and Anu Shukla — to explain their stand on the petition of the JDU to disqualify them from the House on the ground of anti-party activities during the Lok Sabha polls.
Both MLAs emerged from the Speaker’s chamber proclaiming their loyalty to Nitish. Both have asked the Speaker for one more day to give their written explanation to him. However, the meeting between the Speaker and the MLAs was not a one-to-one affair. Four ministers — Vijay Kumar Choudhary, Mahachandra Prasad Singh, Shrawan Kumar and P.K. Shahi — were present in the chamber of the Speaker when Anu Shukla and later Renu Kushwaha went in. The ministers denied that they were there to pressure the dissident MLAs. “We had a meeting in the chamber of the Speaker,” Mahachandra Prasad said.
Anu Shukla declared that she had never disowned her relationship with the JDU. “During the last Lok Sabha polls, I wanted to contest elections but could not get a ticket from the party. But we have struggled hard for the formation of this government and Nitish Kumar is a vikas purush (development man) and my leader. I will remain in the party and vote for anyone Nitishji asks me to,” she said.
Water resources minister Vijay Choudhary supported her, stressing that she had never wavered in her commitment to the party.
Renu Kushwaha, who had filed a writ in Patna High Court challenging the notice sent to her by the Speaker’s secretariat, arrived at the venue late. Emerging from the Speaker’s chamber, she said she “still considers” Nitish as her leader and had asked the Speaker for one more day to submit a written answer.
In another development, Sabir Ali, the Independent candidate propped up by the rebels against Baliabi, turned up in the Assembly building to meet the secretary. “I had come to submit the Election Commission’s clarification on issuing a whip for the Rajya Sabha polls. It is clear that political parties cannot issue a whip to its MLAs for the Rajya Sabha polls as it will be an offence under Section 171C of the IPC. I have requested the Speaker’s secretariat to put up the clarification on the notice board. The JDU is terrorising its MLAs in the name of the writ,” Ali said.
His letter was based on a clarification issued by the Election Commission in 2007 regarding presidential elections. The clarification also pointed out that as per the Supreme Court ruling, anti-defection laws cannot be implemented for voting in the Rajya Sabha polls.
“The hon’ble Supreme Court has observed in Pashupati Nath Sukul Vs Nem Chandra Jai (AIR 1984 399) that elections to Rajya Sabha by members of state legislative assembly are a non-legislative activity and not a proceeding within the state legislative,” says an Election Commission clarification.