BJP leader Vijay Kumar Sinha becomes Speaker of Bihar Assembly
The ruling NDA in Bihar on Wednesday emerged victorious in the first trial of strength in the newly constituted assembly where its candidate Vijay Kumar Sinha got elected as the Speaker by a majority vote.
Sinha, a senior BJP leader, was declared elected by Pro- Tem Speaker Jitan Ram Manjhi who told the House that the NDA candidate got 126 votes against 114 polled by Awadh Bihari Chaudhary who was fielded by the opposition Grand Alliance.
In the 243-member assembly, the lone BSP MLA did not take part in the voting, so is pro-tem Speaker Manjhi and probably one among the opposition coalition allies absented.
The only Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) legislator sided with the NDA.
Hyderbabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi headed AIMIM’s five MLAs voted against the BJP nominee.
The election took place amid rumpus by a petulant opposition which demanded that voting be conducted by secret ballot and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Cabinet colleagues who were not members of the assembly be asked to leave the House.
The demands were turned down by the Chair, evoking vociferous protests by the opposition, which forced adjournment of the House for about five minutes, a development which was frowned upon by the treasury benches which observed that such obstructions during the election of the Speaker were unheard of.
Proceedings of the day began with swearing in of four MLAs who could not take oath in the last couple of days. These included Aniruddh Prasad Yadav and Narendra Kumar Neeraj of the JD(U), RJDs Anant Kumar Singh and CPI(ML)s Amarjeet Kushwaha.
Yadav, who recently recovered from COVID-19 affliction, attracted much attention as he arrived and took oath wearing his PPE kit.
Anant Kumar Singh, a fearsome but colourful personality of Bihar politics, impressed all when he recited the oath statement from memory without casting a glance on the text provided.
As Manjhi informed the House about commencement of election for the Speaker, AIMIM state president Akhtarul Iman rose in his seat and suggested that the House “preserve its tradition of unanimous election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, from among the ruling side and the opposition respectively”.
Notably, in the previous 16 assemblies that have been elected in Bihar, Speaker has been chosen in a contest only twice, in 1967, when the state saw its first non-Congress government, and two years later when a new assembly was formed after mid-term polls.
On Tuesday, RJD’s leader in the House Tejashwi Yadav had expressed his dissatisfaction over the Deputy Speakers post having remained vacant in the previous assembly when he was asked about the decision to go against the convention of electing the Speaker unanimously.
However, with no point of agreement between the ruling dispensation and the opposition in sight, Manjhi went ahead and called for voice vote. His observation that Sinha appeared to enjoy the support of the majority was furiously challenged by the opposition.
Tejashwi Yadav rose in his seat and said “my constituency Raghopur falls in the district of Vaishali which is said to have been the seat of power of the world’s oldest republic, which Bihar prides itself upon. The Chair is supposed to be impartial.
“Please conduct the proceedings in accordance with democratic norms, keeping in mind the fact that the Chair belongs to the House, not to the government or the opposition”.
Thereafter, the pro-tem Speaker ordered a headcount, asking the members to stand in favour of their preferred candidate.
Meanwhile, members of RJD, Congress and CPI(ML) the three largest constituents of the RJD began raising slogans and many of them rushed to the well demanding that the chief minister and ministers like Ashok Choudhary and Mukesh Sahni be asked to leave for the period till voting was over.
The opposition members contention that they were not members of the assembly did not convince Manjhi who pointed out “the chief minister is the leader of the House. He, along with the Leader of the Opposition, is supposed to escort towards the Chair the member who is elected as the Speaker”.
The issue saw some acidic exchanges between the Chair and the opposition. Manjhi pointed out that on many occasions, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was seen in the Lok Sabha when voting on any matter took place even though he was a member of Rajya Sabha.
When an opposition member yelled “this has no precedent in the Bihar assembly”, Manjhi, who has been an MLA for more than three decades came out with a sardonic reply.
“This House has seen many precedents. When Rabri Devi was the Chief Minister, Lalu Prasad had graced the assembly with his presence despite himself then being an MP. You better not tell me about precedents,” said Manjhi who has the distinction of having served as a minister in Congress government, followed by the Lalu-Rabri regime and then under Nitish Kumar whose support enabled his brief stint as the chief minister.
After Sinha was declared elected as the Speaker, acrimony gave way to propriety and the BJP leader was escorted to the Chair jointly by Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav both of whom later expressed hope that under his stewardship the House will have a smooth run.