Thin attendance causes adjournment of Bihar assembly


Patna: The ruling BJP in Bihar was left red-faced inside the state assembly on Tuesday when the House was adjourned on account of thin attendance, with no member even of its ally, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), turning up in the post-lunch session.

This was construed, by a section of the media, to be a nudge and a wink from the Chief Minister’s party to the RJD-led opposition which has been disrupting the House since Monday over Agnipath.

However, JD(U) leaders strongly denied insinuations to this effect.

A “boycott” of the remaining part of the monsoon session, which has two more working days to go, was announced during the lunch hour by the leader of the opposition Tejashwi Yadav, who railed against the Speaker not allowing a discussion on the Agnipath scheme.

He was joined by Left allies and Akhtarul Iman, the state chief of AIMIM, and legislators of these parties were predictably absent.

The Congress, which has been maintaining that following estrangement with the RJD it was no longer a part of the “Grand Alliance”, also made itself scarce.

However, the absence of JD(U) members, and the failure of an adequate number of BJP MLAs to turn up after lunch was felt when the proceedings began at 2 P.M.

BJP MLA from Darbhanga Sanjay Saraogi began a discussion on the need for “rewarding” those who take an active interest in legislative business, citing the example of assemblies of some other states.

After his speech, another party MLA sought to draw the attention of Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha to the “lack of quorum”.

As per rules, the House must have 10 per cent of its 243 members for proceedings to continue.

Incidentally, the BJP on its own has a tally of more than thrice the required number.

The Speaker began by saying “technically, the quorum is there”, but expressed dissatisfaction over the members’ failure to turn up “when we have important things to discuss”.

He, thereafter, adjourned the proceedings till Wednesday.

Later on, a handful of JD(U) leaders, including a minister, were found strolling inside the assembly premises and approached for comments.

“It is wrong to think there was any agenda behind the absence of JD(U) members.

We just got a bit late while returning from a meeting”, said Leshi Singh, who holds the food and consumer protection portfolio in the Nitish Kumar cabinet and is considered close to the Chief Minister.

When asked about the opposition’s boycott call, she replied “this is not appropriate.

“We do not approve of the ruckus created by them inside the House either. Our party has made its stand clear on Agnipath but we do not think the matter warrants discussion on the floor of the House”.”

Her views were echoed by Parbatta MLA Sanjeev Kumar Singh, who asserted “absence of MLAs of our party was coincidental, and not at all intentional”.

Notably, the BJP has been flustered over the stance adopted by the JD(U), its largest ally in the country, concerning the new scheme of recruitment in armed forces.

Violent protests that gripped Bihar immediately after the scheme was rolled out by the Centre, have left the BJP sore as its offices were set on fire in more than one place and houses and cars of many of its leaders were vandalised.

Attempts by the party to paint the depredations as a “conspiracy” hatched by the RJD-led opposition were stymied by the JD(U)’s contention that the protests were “spontaneous” and the Centre and the BJP leadership had it incumbent upon them to address misgivings about the new system which entails retirement after four years of contractual service without pension.