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Bihar: Ahead of Trust Vote on Feb 12, Politics Heats up in State

There are reports in local media that Nitish Kumar fears cross-voting by some of his party MLAs during the trust vote in the Assembly.
Nitish Kumar

Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: Amid the ongoing speculation over some "game" during the trust vote in the Bihar Assembly, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and opposition Mahagathbandhan are doing everything to keep their flock together. But, the stakes are high for the NDA and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

All eyes are on February 12 when Nitish Kumar will seek a trust vote in the state assembly as rumours of "missing" MLAs of ruling JD-U and reports of opposition Rashtriya Janat Dal (RJD) leaders' repeated claims of some "game".

Politics heat up in the state two days before the trust vote, and we may witness a few more political developments in the next 24 hours.

Sensing it, the BJP and Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United (JD-U), two major allies of NDA, are alert. Taking nothing to chance, the BJP has directed all its MLAs to reach Bodh Gaya to participate in a workshop that will be held on Saturday and Sunday. None other than Union Home Minister Amit Shah will address party MLAs before they return to Patna on Sunday night ahead of the trust vote. 

"This workshop is part of a strategy to read the pulse of party MLAs and to keep them together to ensure 100% support during the trust vote," a senior BJP leader told NewsClick.

On the other hand, JD-U has arranged a bhoj (lunch) for its MLAs at the residence of senior party leader and Bihar minister Sharvan Kumar on Saturday. The presence of all party MLAs at the lunch will be significant for JD-U to take all necessary measures for a smooth trust vote. Sharvan Kumar is considered close to CM Kumar and belongs to his OBC caste, Kurmi, from his home district of Nalanda.

Sources in JD-U told NewsClick that some JD-U MLAs failed to turn up at the lunch.

"This is also in the knowledge of Nitish Kumar, as he visited the lunch place to interact with party MLAs," a JD-U leader said.

Besides, JD-U has called its legislative party meeting on Sunday evening. All JD-U MLAs will meet at the residence of senior party leader and Bihar minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary to discuss and finalise strategy hours before the crucial trust vote on Monday.

There are reports in local media that Nitish Kumar fears cross-voting by some of his party MLAs during the trust vote in the Assembly. Some media reported a dozen missing JD-U MLAs who have not been in touch with the party since last week.

Though BJP's ally Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), which has four MLAs repeatedly announced to support NDA during the trust vote, reports suggest something is still unclear. HAM's founder and former chief minister, Jitan Ram Manjhi, has also strengthened this theory by demanding one more berth for his party in the cabinet and a powerful department in place of the traditional SC/ST welfare department.

Meanwhile, CPI(ML) MLA Mahboob Alam visited Manjhi on Saturday and had a closed-door meeting with him. According to reports, Alam's meeting with Manjhi assumes a significant development.

A political watcher, Satya Narayan Madan, said there is clear-cut confusion regarding the HAM and Manjhi matter. In politics, leaders play everything that suits them. 

"This is what politics is all about when the ruling coalition number is uncomfortable. Seasoned politicians like Manjhi understand it".

The opposition RJD has also called all its MLAs for a meeting on Saturday evening at the residence of former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav.

"All RJD MLAs will attend the meeting, which will likely be addressed by party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. In politics, every move is important; let us wait for a trust vote in the Assembly," RJD leader Bhai Virender, also an MLA, told NewsCclick.

While RJD's ally Congress has already shifted 16 of its 19 MLAs to Hyderabad in Telangana to ensure unity and to deal with any attempt to break its MLAs. According to Congress leaders here, party MLAs will reach Patna hours ahead of the trust vote.

However, in political circles here, it has been discussed during the last few days that the opposition RJD may surprise Nitish Kumar during the trust vote as it is working to lure some JD-U MLAs who are not happy over Nitish Kumar joining hands with BJP this time. After Nitish Kumar on Sunday (January 28) resigned as Mahagathbandhan's chief minister and formed a new government with the support of BJP-led NDA, RJD leader and former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav repeatedly claimed that the political game may change in the state.

Early this week, Speaker of Bihar Assembly Awadh Bihari Choudhary publicly announced that he would not resign, ignoring the no-confidence notice served against him by the NDA. Choudhary is a senior RJD leader and is considered close to Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Currently, NDA has the support of 128 MLAs, including BJP's 78, JD-U's 45, HAM's four and one Independent. This strength is six more than the majority of 122 in the House of 243.

Meanwhile, the opposition, Mahagathbandhan, has 114 MLAs, including RJD's 79, Congress' 19, and Left parties' 16.

Ironically, more than 13 days after the new NDA government was formed, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has yet to expand his cabinet and delayed it reportedly due to a trust vote. The NDA government is working with only nine ministers, including the chief minister, against the sanctioned strength 37.

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