Wednesday, March 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No consensus on Bihar Speaker
Cong divided; Samata leader rebels

PATNA, March 7 (PTI) — Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s efforts to evolve a consensus on the Speaker’s election in a bid to avert a showdown ahead of the trial of strength on March 10 failed today with major Opposition parties, including the RJD and the Congress, staying away from an all-party meeting called by him.

The CPM, the BSP, the RCP and the MCC, who had lent support to the RJD, also boycotted the meeting.

The meeting at the Chief Minister’s Assembly chamber was attended by NDA allies, JMM-S, CPI and AJSU.

The RJD President, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav and BPCC Chief Sadanand Singh said their representatives and other supporting MLAs had decided to boycott the meeting “since we don’t give much credence to the existence of the Nitish ministry... It was thrust upon the state with a design by the Centre.”

Mr Yadav claimed that the NDA was in minority and the next Speaker of the House would “only be of RJD’s choice.”

The BPCC President said the Congress would “definitely” side with the RJD on the Speaker issue as it had already decided to support the latter.

The Chief Minister came under attack from his own Samata Party when the state General Secretary Arun Bharatiya resigned from the party, protesting against his reported move to take support of “MLAs with a criminal background” to prove his majority.

In a press statement, he charged the party leaders with playing “into the hands of communal and fascist forces.”

After the crucial meeting, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the NDA was trying to contact leaders of political parties who did not turn up at the meeting to establish a “healthy traditions.”

To a query, he said the Opposition had so far not proposed any candidate for the post and any proposal made by the Opposition would be considered.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said the CPI had agreed for a consensus candidate to the post and given consent for leaving the post of the Deputy Speaker for the main Opposition party.

He said the alliance would decide its course of action if negotiations with other political parties failed.

Differences of opinion emerged between the CPI and the CPI (ML) as the latter remained conspicuous by its absence during the meeting. The CPI is in favour of a consensus candidate for the post while the CPI(ML) is tight-lipped over the matter.

The two parties had fought the Assembly elections on the anti-Laloo plank but differences arose after the CPI(ML) gave the Bihar bandh call in protest against the Bihar Governor s decision to invite the NDA to form government.

Meanwhile, differences in the Bihar Congress came to the fore today with senior leaders criticising the Congress Working Committee (CWC) decision to join hands with the RJD.

They urged the legislators to abstain from the confidence motion of the National Democratic Alliance government and said the Congress could play the role of Opposition without joining any of the alliances.The party leaders, including state working President Ramjatan Sinha, Leader of the party in the State Legislative Council Umeshwar Prasad Verma and former Leader of the party in the Assembly Ramashraya Prasad Singh told mediapersons here that the decision of the CWC smacked of the party’s lack of principles and ideology.

They said the party’s election manifesto had clearly stated the Congress would have no truck with “any corrupt party or person. But now the decision indicated that they were not abiding by its promises made to the electorate.”

The party has 23 members in the 324-member Assembly.

A Delegation of the state party annoyed with the high command’s decision met AICC President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi yesterday to apprise her of the feelings of the majority Congress men in the state.

The dissident Congress leaders said the high command should reconsider its stand and not issue a whip for voting during the confidence motion.

The AICC spokesman, Mr Ajit Jogi, today said his party legislators had full faith in the Congress Working Committee decision to go with the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar and ruled out any split in the 23-member legislature party.

He threw a challenge to the NDA to break the Congress during the vote of confidence in the Assembly on March 10.

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