Patna: On Tuesday, Dr Mukesh Roshan, a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLA who is also a dentist, entered the Bihar assembly with a stethoscope in hand. The MLA wanted to check up on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as he was worried about his “blood pressure”.
Speaking to ThePrint, he said, “I want to check the blood pressure of the chief minister. He is losing his temper frequently. High blood pressure cannot be good for his health. I am worried.”
Roshan was actually trying to mock the CM, who has become the talk of the town over the last few weeks for repeatedly losing his cool during the ongoing budget session in the assembly.
On Monday, Nitish had a war of words in the legislative council with RJD MLC Subodh Rai, who interrupted a minister replying to a question.
“First learn the House proceedings before participating in it,” Nitish told the MLC.
Even as Rai refused to sit down, Nitish stunned the House when he asked a senior RJD MLC, “Don’t you teach him (Rai) how to participate in a House proceeding?”
Last month, Nitish had a verbal duel with another RJD MLC, Sunil Singh, who is also the chairman of the Bihar State Co-operative Marketing Union Ltd (BISCOMAUN), the apex co-operative body in the state, when he was challenging the government’s reply on procurement of foodgrains from Bihar farmers.
Nitish taunted Singh, saying he was in the RJD because he could not get a ticket from the ruling Janata Dal (United). He addressed Singh as “tum” instead of the courteous “aap”. The CM even threatened to launch a probe against BISCOMAUN.
“I was stunned. I consider Nitish Kumar as a guardian. I would have accepted two slaps from Nitish Kumar outside the House. But inside the House, the CM cannot address a legislator as ‘tum’,” Singh told ThePrint.
Nitish got aggressive earlier this week with Congress leader Ajit Sharma for suggesting withdrawal of the anti-liquor law. “What sort of a Congressman are you? Your party claims to follow (Mahatma) Gandhi who advocated anti-liquor laws,” Nitish said, without arguing the points Sharma made.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sharma said, “This session we have marked that not only Nitish but his ministers also lose temper inside the House. A senior JDU minister like Bijendra Yadav shouts at an opposition MLA to sit down whenever we try to ask a question. It is not good for democracy and it appears that Nitish Kumar is under pressure.”
Even Gyanendra Singh, an MLA from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is a JD(U) ally, noted that Nitish now “becomes angry”.
“Previously, Nitish ji used to remain cool in the face of criticism and even smile. Now he becomes angry,” he told ThePrint.
The JD(U) has, however, defended the CM’s demeanour. “The opposition can ask as many questions as it wants. But the rules of proceedings should be followed. The chief minister has only pointed towards violation of rules,” said JD(U) minister Shrawan Kumar.
Why Nitish is angry
According to opposition leaders, the CM’s anger is at the frustration of his diluted political standing after the 2020 assembly polls in which his party emerged as a junior partner in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
“The frequent loss of temper is a sign of political weakness,” RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav told reporters in Patna Tuesday.
RJD MLC Sunil Singh said Nitish is losing his temper due to frustration with ally BJP. “He cannot take out his anger against the BJP so he takes it out against us,” said Singh.
Last week, Bihar minister and BJP leader Mukesh Sahni created uproar when he sent his brother to a government function in Khagaria. His brother was accorded full ministerial treatment. When the RJD raised the issue in the assembly, Sahni apologised at the behest of the CM. But Nitish remained quiet on the demand of sacking Sahni.
Similarly, the CM also choice silence when it was pointed out last year that large quantities of liquor were recovered in an educational institute run by a BJP minister.
“An earlier Nitish Kumar would have asked the BJP to remove the minister from his ministry. But now he has to remain silent,” said a JD(U) MLA who didn’t wish to be named.
New Tejashwi also an issue
Nitish’s frustration has been increased by the new avatar of RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav, who went from being a leader of opposition who did not participate in House proceedings to now arming himself with facts and figures.
While participating in a debate on the Governor’s address in February, Tejashwi used government figures to demolish the Nitish government’s claims on law and order.
He pointed out that during the last year (2005) of his father Lalu Prasad’s rule, about 97,000 criminal cases were registered in what the NDA called ‘jungle raj’ while in 2018, these cases rose above 19 lakh.
Moreover, his House conduct is also finding appreciation. Many NDA MLAs say in private that they are impressed with Tejashwi’s pointed attacks, which leave the treasury bench groping for answers.
Unlike previous sessions, Tejashwi has allowed proceedings in the House to take place and instead concentrated on challenging the government’s response. He even asks supplementary questions when NDA MLAs ask questions.