Patna: With the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance doing well in Bihar, winning Wednesday's confidence vote seems to be a mere formality for the Nitish Kumar government.
Kumar, who was sworn in as Chief Minister of Bihar for the fourth time on February 22, had been directed by Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi to seek a trust vote on March 11.
The JD-U has issued a whip to all its 110 members in the Assembly, excluding Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary, to vote for the trust motion, Parliamentary Affairs minister and JD(U) Chief Whip Shrawan Kumar told PTI today.
Kumar said as per provisions of the 10th schedule of the Constitution which is related to anti-defection laws, a whip has also been issued to outgoing CM Jitan Ram Manjhi and a handful of other dissidents siding with him.
"Manjhi has been declared an unattached member but his membership of the party has not yet been terminated, hence as per provisions of anti-defection law he has to obey the whip or invite disqualification," Kumar, a close confidante of the CM, said.
Asked if Manjhi and other rebel JD(U) MLAs decide to "absent" themselves during voting, Kumar said even that would be considered violation of whip and action would be taken.
Nitish Kumar is all set to draw support from RJD and Congress which have stood with him throughout the political turmoil triggered by Manjhi's rebellion.
RJD Chief Whip and Maner MLA Bhai Virendra said, "We have decided to support Nitish Kumar and JD-U during the trust vote. Our 24 MLAs are united. A whip will be issued to all of them in the evening, asking them to support the confidence motion."
Congress Legispature Party (CLP) leader Sadanand Singh said the five MLAs belonging to his party will be with Kumar during the floor test and added, "We have already issued a whip to all our MLAs to support Kumar".
Though the BJP having 87 MLAs said it would decide its strategy during its legislature party meeting in the evening, indications are that it would abstain from voting, aware of the inevitable outcome.
The Bihar Assembly at present has an effective strength of 233 with 10 vacancies. The magic figure is 117. With 110 JD(U) members, 24 RJD, 5 Congress, 1 CPI and some Independents among five, Nitish Kumar seems confident of sailing through.
Legislative Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary said, "This will be the last budget session of the 15th House and the Nitish Kumar government will take confidence motion soon after Governor Keshri Nath Tripati's inaugural address to a joint sitting of the Assembly and the Bihar Legislative Council."
The budget session, originally scheduled to start from February 20, failed to take place after Manjhi instead of proving majority on the floor of the House on the first day, decided to quit. The Speaker had adjourned the House sine die.
The Speaker said he was "not expecting any trouble" during the floor test, but has taken precautionary measures like installing several CCTV cameras to keep a watch on MLAs and the entire proceedings inside the House.
"Last time there was an unnecessary dispute over seating arrangement, which was done according to the rules of the House. The JD (U) had expressed its wish to sit in the opposition, and accordingly it was given place. This time there is no such demand by any party or person," Chaudhary said.
"Matters related to voting during the confidence motion will be decided during the trust vote according to the rules. I will decide whether there will be voice vote or lobby division when the floor test starts," he added.
Regarding seating arrangement for Manjhi, the Assembly Speaker said, "He (Manjhi) will be given a place near the treasury benches. He has been declared an unattached member of the House, but he has not given anything to me in writing that he wants to oppose the government or wants to sit somewhere else. So, we will consider him as a member of JD (U)."
Rebel JD-U MLAs Gyanendra Singh Gyanu, Neeraj Kumar Bablu, Ravindra Rai and Rahul Sharma, who were disqualified by the Speaker, and whose membership was later restored by the Patna High Court, will not get a chance to attend the Assembly session.
This was because the Assembly secretariat has not yet issued notification pending appeal in the HC against the decision of a single bench to restore their membership.
"As per Assembly records, they are not our members. As far as we are concerned, their matter is not subjudice," Choudhary said.
The Budget session of Bihar Assembly starting from March 11 would end on April 22.