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Nitish, Lalu meet president, seek immediate Bihar assembly session

Nitish Lalu meet president

New Delhi/Patna, (IANS) Amid the continuing political crisis in Bihar, leaders of the JD-U, RJD and the Congress Wednesday met President Pranab Mukherjee to request that Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi be instructed to take an immediate decision on calling a special session of the assembly to test the majority as 130 legislators supported Nitish Kumar.

Talking to reporters outside Rashtrapati Bhavan after the meeting, Nitish Kumar said delay in the floor test was "spoiling the atmosphere" in the state and promoting "horse-trading."

He accused the BJP of wanting to impose President' Rule in Bihar ahead of the assembly election scheduled to be held later this year.

The delegation included Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has been authorised by parties of the erstwhile Janata Parivar to work out modalities for their merger.

Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad and Congress general secretary C.P. Joshi were among those present.

Nitish Kumar said 130 legislators supporting him in the 243-member Bihar assembly belonged to his own party, the RJD, the Congress and the Communist Party of India. The legislators were brought to Rashtrapati Bhavan in buses.

Bihar is facing a political crisis following the JD-U's decision to re-elect Nitish Kumar as its legislature party leader and expel Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi from the party.

Manjhi, who has refused to step down, has said the test of majority should be conducted on the floor of the house through "secret ballot".

Manjhi was hand-picked by Nitish Kumar to replace him as chief minister last year following the JD-U's rout in the Lok Sabha.

Meanwhile, JD-U legislators loyal to Manjhi have expressed confidence that the BJP would support him in the floor test.

In a related development, the Patna High Court Wednesday stayed Nitish Kumar's election as the new leader of the legislature party, according to a government lawyer.

Hearing a petition filed by a Manjhi loyalist, legislator Rajeshwar Raj, a bench stayed Nitish Kumar's election as the new leader of the JD-U legislature party.

Nitish Kumar, however, said there was some misreporting of the court's order.

The JD-U has 115 legislators in the assembly and most of them are reportedly with Nitish Kumar. He is backed by 24 legislators of the RJD, five of the Congress, two independents and one from the CPI.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 88 legislators and is supported by three independents.

BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain Wednesday took dig at Nitish Kumar, saying he had broken his alliance with the BJP in Bihar to become the prime ministerial candidate of the third front but he was now a chief minister-in-waiting.

Nitish Kumar, who met the governor to convey that the majority support was with him, told reporters outside Rashtrapati Bhavan that there should be an immediate decision on the issue.

"The governor is a nominee of the president. We came to him with a prayer that the path should be paved for formation of (an alternative) government in Bihar at the earliest. We requested him to give directions for immediate decision," he said.

Nitish Kumar said the Manjhi government may be given a chance to prove its majority but without delay.

He said the president assured them that he would look into their demand.

The former chief minister said the governor should not wait till the budget session for floor test. The budget session of the Bihar assembly will begin Feb 20.

"The budget should of the government which proves its majority. The governor's address should be of the government which proves its majority," he said.

"Not paving the way for formation of a government is injustice. It is playing with democracy," Nitish Kumar added.

Lalu Prasad said the BJP had been limited to three seats in the Delhi assembly "but wanted to enter Bihar".

He said the delegation to the president was led by Mulayam Singh Yadav.

In Patna, JD-U legislators loyal to Manjhi expressed confidence about the BJP's support in a confidence vote.

"We are certain that the BJP would support a Mahadalit chief minister," said JD-U legislator Rajiv Ranjan.


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