Saturday, March 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Nitish sworn in Bihar CM

PATNA, March 3 (UNI, PTI) — National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Legislature Party leader Nitish Kumar was today sworn in as the 29th Chief Minister of Bihar.

Governor Vinod Chandra Pande administered the oath of office and secrecy to Mr Kumar at a function held at Raj Bhavan.

Mr Kumar was the lone member of his Cabinet who took the oath in presence of a galaxy of dignitaries.

Among those present at the swearing-in ceremony were Defence Minister George Fernandes, Union Power Minister P. R. Kumaramangalam and Rajya Sabha member Shatrughan Sinha.

The invitation to the NDA to form the new government marked the end of the tug-of-war between the two main contenders — the RJD and the NDA — for power in the state after the last month’s election to the state Assembly failed to give a definite verdict in favour of any of the alliances.

The Governor’s action giving 10 days’ time to the NDA leader to prove his majority in the 325-member Assembly, however, brought strong protest from RJD supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav who laid a siege of Raj Bhavan areas to prevent the oath-taking ceremony scheduled to be held at 5 p.m.

The RJD supremo, who had gone to New Delhi yesterday to garner the support of the 23-member Congress Legislature Party as well as some smaller parties, including the BSP, and CPI (Marxist-Leninist), took exception to the Governor’s “undemocratic” action taken at the “behest” of the Centre. He claimed that he had the support of 161 members — two less than the magic number of 163 — which was disputed by Mr Kumar.

Mr Kumar has, meanwhile, resigned from the Union Cabinet following the Governor’s invitation to him to form the next government.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has, meanwhile assumed the charge of Agriculture Ministry following Mr Kumar’s resignation.

With its own 122 members, the NDA had managed to woo the support of the 12-member JMM and 12 Independents in its list of 146 legislators. The RJD, however, gave the list of 126 to the Governor, including two CPM members.

Raj Bhavan sources said Mr Kumar had met the Governor earlier in the day and submitted names of some more members who supported the NDA. This enabled the Governor to call him to form the new government.

Mr Yadav said state Congress committee president Sadanand Singh had conveyed to the Governor his party’s support to the RJD, so did senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee during the day from Delhi.

A formal letter of support to the RJD from Congress President Sonia Gandhi was to reach Raj Bhavan later during the day.

According to a report from New Delhi Mr Sadanand Singh accused the Governor of committing a “constitutional mistake” by inviting Mr Kumar to form the new government and asserted that the NDA was in minority in the Assembly.

Meanwhile, former Bihar Congress Legislature Party leader Ramashraya Prasad Singh told reporters here that the Congress was on the verge of a split in the state as there was serious resentment among a section of partymen on the issue of supporting the RJD for government formation.

He said by sending its letter of support to the Governor, the Congress had committed a “blunder”.

Left parties also criticised Mr Pande’s decision and demanded its reversal. CPI central secretariat said the Governor had taken a “hasty and biased decision”.

The CPM Politburo described the move as “undemocratic” and said “the Governor has acted at the behest of the Centre without taking into account the verdict of the people”.

The BJP, meanwhile, said the NDA would prove its majority in the Assembly within the 10-day limit.

BJP spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu said the Governor had taken the decision to invite Mr Kumar to form the government according to the Constitution and in the interests of the people and their mandate. Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh also held the Congress responsible for bringing a “communal government” in Bihar.


Revoke Governor’s order: Oppn
Congress, Left parties cry foul
Tribune News Service and UNI

NEW DELHI, March 3 —Leaders of five opposition parties, led by the Congress, today called on President K.R Narayanan and urged him to ask Bihar Governor Vinod Chandra Pande to rescind his order inviting NDA leader Nitish Kumar to form the government in that state.

Briefing reporters after submitting a memorandum to the President, senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said the delegation conveyed its concern to Mr Narayanan over the ‘unconstitutional’ act of the Bihar Governor and requested him to ‘restrain the Governor’ in whatever way he deemed fit. He, however, did not elaborate.

Mr Mukherjee said the Governor had been given a list of 161 MLAs supporting the RJD-led alliance against 145 of the NDA. As the 12 MLAs of the CPI and CPI-ML had already announced their opposition to the NDA, it had become clear that in a House of 324, 173 MLAs were against the formation of the NDA.

The delegation had also taken exception to the Governor giving 10 days’ time to Mr Nitish Kumar to prove his majority in the assembly as this would facilitate horse trading.

Earlier, about 12 RJD MPs staged a dharna in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan for over an hour.

The delegation included Mr Manmohan Singh, Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD), Mr Kanshi Ram (BSP), Mr S.R. Bommai (JD-S) and Mr Nilotpal Basu (CPI-M).

Earlier, the swiftness with which the Bihar Governor, Mr Vinod Pande invited Mr Nitish Kumar and sworn him in as the new Chief Minister in Patna today stunned the Congress and other parties in the Opposition.

The CPM which fought the Bihar elections as an ally of the RJD demanded the removal of the Bihar Governor while the RJD leader charged that Mr Pande acted under pressure from the Centre.

The CPI and the CPI-ML also joined the chorus of protests along with the Congress with all pledging to vote against the new NDA government on the floor of the Bihar Assembly during vote of confidence.

The Congress charged that the Governor had acted in haste and that his action had opened the scope for “political manipulation and horse-trading” in Bihar.

The Congress, which had decided to extend support to Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav’s RJD was at pains to explain that there was ‘no delay’ on its part.

Senior party leader, Mr Pranab Mukherjee who was part of the four-member team that negotiated with Mr Yadav yesterday disclosed that the Bihar state Congress chief Mr Sadanand Singh had informed the Governor on the telephone last night of the party’s decision to support the RJD government.

The Congress had in the meanwhile finalised an agreed common minimum programme which was signed both by Mr Yadav and the AICC General Secretary, Mrs Mohsina Kidwai, in charge of party affairs in the state.

Party sources said Mr Sadanand Singh had conveyed to Mr Pande on the telephone from Delhi of the Congress decision with the assurance that formal letter would follow, which did this afternoon.

Mr Sadanand Singh was summoned last night by the party high command to explain the rationale behind the Congress decision, especially having contested the recent elections against the RJD.

Mr Mukherjee said the party formally faxed the letter of support to the Bihar Governor at 1.30 pm today and charged that Mr Pande’s action of inviting Mr Nitish Kumar to be the next Chief Minister without satisfying himself as to who enjoyed the majority would facilitate “politics of manipulation and horse-trading”.

To a question, if the party had not erred by delaying in sending the letter of support, Mr Mukherjee countered: “How are we to know when the Governor was to call. He did not consult us.’’

Mrs Kidwai, who was also present at a press conference here, charged that Mr Pande did not take cognisance of the Congress support despite being informed and that when the assembly had been constituted only on Wednesday he could have waited longer especially when the situation was still developing.

The Congress leaders here were confident that none of their 23 newly-elected legislators would cross the floor and also that Mr Nitish Kumar would not be able to win the vote of confidence like Mr Vajpayee failed in 1996.

According to the Congress calculations, the RJD which had 123 MLAs enjoyed the support of the CPI-M (two), the BSP (five), the Congress (23), one Left-supported candidate and some Independents.

In any case the effective voting strength in the 324-strong Bihar Assembly would be down to 322 since two members were elected from two constituencies. The majority mark comes to 161 and as the 12 MLAs belonging to the CPI and the CPI-ML had decided to vote against the NDA the magic mark of 162 was within grasp of the RJD, if it was allowed.

In separate statements, the CPI and the CPI-ML too criticised the move. The CPI said the Governor had taken a “hasty and biased decision” and demanded its reversal while the CPI-ML said the move could vitiate the political atmosphere in Bihar and open floodgates for “largescale horse-trading”.



Bihar, RSS issues rock Parliament
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, March 3 — The installation of a NDA government in Bihar led by Mr Nitish Kumar today caused turbulence here with agitated Opposition members forcing the adjournment of both Houses of Parliament.

The Opposition accused the Centre of “murdering democracy” and “ridiculing Parliamentary democracy” as news of the Bihar Governor inviting Mr Nitish Kumar to form the next government spread.

Rashtriya Janata Dal MPs, who appeared stumped and stunned by the decision of the Governor, were in the forefront of the protest occupying space in the well of the House in Lok Sabha, with the Samajwadi Party and CPM joining hands.

The Parliament proceedings which were paralysed for the last seven days over the RSS issue was today overshadowed by developments in Patna.

The Lok Sabha which met this afternoon following adjournment this morning, was thrown in turmoil as it reassembled at 3.20 pm.

Despite attempts by Mrs Margaret Alva, who was in Chair, RJD, SP and CPM MPs were not willing to allow the House continue and take up private members business. With their protests drowning other voices, the Chair adjourned the House for the day.

In the Rajya Sabha, uproarious scenes were witnessed on two different issues. In the morning, members were agitated over the withdrawal of two volumes of “Towards Freedom” series by the Indian Council of Historical Research. After adjournment, when the House reassembled it was the Bihar issue that dominated and Deputy Chairperson Dr Najma Heptulla adjourned it for the day.

Meanwhile, it is understood that the government has suggested to the Speaker to convene an all-party meeting over the Bihar before the House resumes sitting on Monday.

The meeting could precede the one with allies called by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to discuss the RSS issue.

The adamant opposition stalled the Lok Sabha proceedings today for the seventh day on the RSS issue, by storming into the well, forcing an adjournment of the House, a UNI report said.

Before adjourning the House, Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi made an obituary reference to the passing away of Mr B. Rachaiah, a member of the sixth house from Karnataka.

Amidst virtual bedlam which continued for over 20 minutes, Marxist member Somnath Chatterjee said the opposition was committed to press for a discussion on the contentious issue under rule 184 instead of rule 193, which would not be treated as a “motion of no-confidence.”

When he said that the Opposition had cooperated in permitting presentation of the President’s Address and the Union and Railway Budgets, Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi said the Chair also had certain expectations from the Opposition and wanted direction to “break the deadlock.”

Opposition members trooped into the well almost as soon as the House assembled this morning but were persuaded to resume their seats. But they again went to the well when Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said something which was not audible in the din. Failing to persuade them to take their seats, the Speaker adjourned the House.

After the obituary reference, former Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana (BJP) was immediately on his feet, demanding that the motion of thanks to the President for his address be taken up. He said six days had been passed without transacting any business.

The Speaker appealed to the members to allow the business to run as the proceedings were being watched by the whole nation.

Mr Chatterjee said the situation had become such that the Opposition was being denied the benefit of a rule in the rules of procedure. He also wanted to know why did the Leader of the House avoid the House during these days?

When Mr Khurana continued to interrupt him, Mr Chatterjee said that the BJP member had been a direct victim of the RSS and therefore had no reason to grumble.

The Speaker then called on Mr Madhav Rao Scindia (Congress) to speak on the issue, but a remark by Mr Mahajan irked the Opposition. Then they entered the well shouting “we want 184”. Failing to persuade them to return to their seats, the Speaker adjourned the house.

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