Monday, 8 August, 2022
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‘Dictatorial’ CM who’s ‘averse to criticism’ – what Bihar assembly ruckus reveals about Nitish

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has passed a spate of controversial laws, with the opposition alleging that he is bulldozing them through while being averse to building a consensus. 

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Patna: In his sixth term as Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar appears to have adopted a new avatar — one in which he has become incommunicado to even his ministers, less tolerant of criticism and averse to building a consensus. 

Much of it came to the fore Tuesday, when the Bihar assembly witnessed one of its darkest days after the police were called in to throw out over a dozen opposition MLAs. 

In disturbing images, at least four women Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLAs were dragged out by the police and another legislator was so badly assaulted that he had to be taken to hospital. 

They were all opposing the controversial Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021, which seeks to convert 18 battalions of Bihar Military Police into a special armed force on the lines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The bill also gives the force the powers to arrest any person or raid a premises without a warrant. 

To set the record straight, the 111-member strong opposition did not cover itself in glory either. The opposition held Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha hostage in his office so that he could not go inside the House to start proceedings. The Speaker’s chair was virtually taken over and microphones removed. 

The opposition, however, says that the chief minister never sought to break the stalemate and instead looked to bulldoze the legislation through.   

“The easiest way out would have been to refer the bill to a select committee,” senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari said. “There was no urgent need for the bill to be passed immediately but Nitish Kumar was obsessed in getting the bill passed on the same day.” 

Congress MLA Ajit Sharma said the strife started in the morning that the government made no attempt to defuse the situation. “The government is responsible for allowing the situation to spiral out of control,” he said. 

Even Nitish’s ministers admit that there was a lack of information prior to the bill being introduced. “The bill was presented in the cabinet meeting at the last moment and no discussions were held on it,” a cabinet minister told The Print. 

The media has also not been allowed near the chief minister’s office during the assembly session, a departure from past practice. 

On his part, the chief minister has defended the bill. “There is nothing new about such a force. They have not studied the bill,” he said in the assembly, adding that the state needed such a force to guard the Bodh Gaya shrine, airports and other such establishments.


Also read: Bihar wants its alcohol put to better use as state looks to become ethanol hub 


Opposition boycotts session

A day after the mayhem, the opposition Wednesday announced its boycott of the assembly session. 

“If the government wants to run the assembly with the help of the police we will not be a part of it,” RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav told the media in Patna. 

The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), however, is justifying the events of Tuesday. 

“In my 31 years in the assembly, I have never seen such a scene. It was the Speaker’s decision to call the police as the opposition was holding him hostage,” senior JD(U) Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav told the print. “The opposition occupied the Speaker’s chair, broke his mic and was hurling abuses. What choice did the Speaker have?” 

BJP MLA Sanjay Sarogi said, “The opposition was behaving like goondas and not MLAs.” 

The RJD’s Tiwari, however, said that this was reflective of the chief minister’s stance on issues. Tiwari, who has known Nitish Kumar closely, alleged that impatience towards criticism and bulldozing of opponents are old traits of the chief minister. 

“What has changed this time is his diluted political strength both compared to the BJP and the RJD. He has become even more dictatorial and averse to criticism,” Tiwari said.  

Experts say that the chief minister’s stance will hurt the state. 

“The key word for parliamentary democracy is consensus. Stand-offs take place in all parliamentary bodies,” said Prof. N.K. Chaudhary, a former professor at Patna University. “It is the ruling party that initiates the move for a consensus. That is not happening. It is a dangerous sign for  democracy.” 

“It signals a peril to democratic traditions. The person who is a product of the JP agitation of the 1970s is indulging in the same practices he used to denounce,” said Prof D.N. Diwakar of the A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies. 

Spate of controversial laws

Of late, the Nitish Kumar government has been passing a number of controversial laws. 

In February, DGP S.K. Singhal issued a circular warning that those caught in “criminal acts” during protests would not be eligible for government jobs or bank loans. This prompted the opposition to label Nitish Kumar as Kim Jong-un of Bihar.

Before that in January, the Economic Offences Wing of state police issued a circular threatening legal action against those posting “derogatory and false posts” on ministers, MLAs, MPs and officials. The opposition had then compared the chief minister to Hitler.

In the same month, the government had also issued a circular that threatened to retire government officials over 50 years of age “whose performance was not up to the mark”. Various service associations had then threatened to go on strike over the issue. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)


Also read: In RLSP merger, a Nitish message to BJP as he rebuilds ‘Luv-Kush’ alliance with Kushwaha


 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Do not use misleading click bait headings. You make it sound as if Nitish is a dictator when yoou know in reality it was the speaker who had RIGHTLY ordered police to throw out these goon MALs out because they had been waging riots for hours.

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