Ahead of Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's floor test, Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary on Thursday granted the status of principal opposition party to the Janata Dal-United in place of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which slammed the move as "arbitrary".
The Speaker granted JD-U leader Vijay Chaudhary the status of leader of opposition in place of BJP's Nand Kishore Yadav. "Assembly Secretariat has to act according to the numerical strength and since the JD-U had sought the status of main opposition, we had no reason to deny them this considering their numbers," Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary told PTI.
Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi after being expelled by party President Sharad Yadav has been declared as unattached member in the legislative assembly. He has to prove his majority in the House on Friday.
The JD-U would also be given status of main opposition in the legislative council. "On the basis of numerical strength, we have no option but to recognise the JD-U as main opposition party in the legislative council," Chairman of Council Awdesh Narayan Singh told PTI.
Meanwhile, a furious BJP sat on dharna in front of assembly entrance to protest the Speaker's "arbitrary" decision.
"This is for the first time in the country that a party – JD-U -- will sit in both treasury and opposition sides," Nand Kishore Yadav said. He contended that the BJP was inclined to support Manjhi on issues but this did not mean it was joining Manjhi government.
"Even Nitish Kumar being in the NDA had supported Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential election while other constituents had voted for P A Sangma. So giving issue-based support does not mean a party joining a government," Yadav argued.
JD-U Legislature Party leader Vijay Chaudhary had on Wednesday during an all party meeting urged the speaker to allow it to sit in opposition gallery as it has decided to oppose trust vote to be sought by Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
"The assembly is run by rules and laws and not anybody's whims...on the basis of 'sankhya bal' (numerical strength) there was no reason to deny JD-U request to grant it status of principal opposition party," the speaker said.
Accordingly, JD-U has been given status of principal Opposition party and its leader Vijay Chaudhary has been recognised as leader of opposition in the House, the speaker said.
In the 243-member Bihar assembly whose effective strength at present is 233, JD-U has 110 MLAs including speaker, one unattached member in Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, BJP 87, Rashtriya Janata Dal 24, Congress five, Communist Party of India one, Independent five while 10 seats are vacant.
Asserting that Manjhi's government has "fallen into minority", the JD-U charged it with "trying to survive by buying its MLAs" ahead of the confidence vote.
In a hurriedly-called press conference, JD-U state president Vashistha Narayan Singh presented party MLA from Sheohar constituency, Sharfuddin who alleged that Pappu Yadav, RJD MP from Madhepura had telephoned him offering money and a minister's post if he supports Manjhi during the floor test.
Speaking on the occasion, JD-U state president Vashistha Narayan Singh said, "The Manjhi government has fallen into minority, hence it is trying to buy our MLAs to survive the floor test. It has stopped thinking about ethics, morality and laws that prohibit horse-trading of legislators."
Singh added that all MLAs of the JD-U were united under the leadership of Kumar and Manjhi will lose the confidence vote, however hard he may try to survive by hook or by crook.
The JD-U state president also alleged that the efforts to buy MLAs have the "nod of BJP, which is hand in gloves with Manjhi and Pappu Yadav".
"The real face of BJP will get revealed during the floor test. It is completely in cahoots with Manjhi and Pappu Yadav. It should reply to the public as to why it is trying to save the Manjhi government," Singh said.
Image: JD-U's Nitish Kumar