Dramatically Lalu Prasad Paraded 6 revel MLAs with in Hour of split

Patna, 24 February(PTI): High drama engulfed Bihar politics on Monday after Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) suffered a split, which the party said was not true because forged signatures of its legislators had been submitted to the speaker.

Dramatically Lalu Prasad Paraded 6 revel MLAs with in Hour of split

Dramatically Lalu Prasad Paraded 6 revel MLAs with in Hour of split
A file photo of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav leaving for Ranchi to appear before a CBI court in connection with fodder scam in Patna. (PTI photo)
Around 5pm, the RJD was hit by the news that 13 of its 22 legislators had pledged support to the ruling Janata Dal (United). The 13, including five Muslims, met at the residence of party MLA Samrat Chaudhary and wrote to speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary withdrawing allegiance from the RJD and extending support to the Nitish Kumar government.

RJD legislator Javed Iqbal Ansari said he and 12 more MLAs had written to the speaker expressing support to the JD(U) government.

The speaker told PTI, “We have accepted the letter and will act as per rule.” A notification recognising the 13 MLAs as a separate group was issued in the evening.

Though two-thirds of MLAs are required to break away from a parent party to escape disqualification under the anti-defection law, the splinter RJD group can escape losing membership if it does not merge with the JD(U) and extends outside support.

The split is also likely to impact the ongoing talks between RJD and Congress for an alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha polls due in less than 100 days.

For the ruling JD(U), splitting the RJD is a major coup. Lalu, who is Delhi, did not immediately react, but the RJD denied its MLAs had deserted him. Later, Lalu told reporters, “I have heard about it. I am finding out what is happening.” Around 7pm the RJD went on the offensive, parading six of the 13 ‘deserters’ at a press conference of RJD legislature party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui.

“The signatures of RJD leaders have been forged in the letter to the speaker,” said Siddiqui. “We will submit a memorandum to the speaker on Tuesday. There has been no split in the party. This is a mischief, which has been committed by some unscrupulous element at the behest of the ruling party.” Apart from the six, Siddiqui said two more ‘rebel’ MLAs were very much with the RJD, but were not present as they were in their constituencies.

He said the RJD’s legislature party would meet on Tuesday afternoon at Lalu’s residence, where the party would show that it had the support of at least 10 ‘rebel’ MLAs. “Maybe three MLAs have decided to defect. But if they want to join the JD(U), they will have to resign from their membership,” he said.

Siddiqui also challenged the notification issued by the speaker to give recognition to the 13 MLAs as a separate group, saying it was against the anti-defection law. “As per the rules, it is imperative on the part of the speaker to first verify the signature of the MLAs by calling them in person. Why was the notification issued in a hurry?” Siddiqui said the party leaders would meet the speaker on Tuesday to submit a memorandum regarding the alleged fraud and demand recall of the notification. “We will fight a legal battle in this case if needed.”

MLA Abdul Ghafoor, whose name figures in the splinter group, maintained he had never signed any letter extending support to the JD(U) government. “I have never written a letter to leave the RJD. A fraud has been committed with me,” he said.

As signs emerged that Lalu may have staved off a massive split, he still had to contend with the remaining dissidents among whom Samrat Chaudhary was the most vocal. Samrat, the son of senior RJD leader Shakuni Chaudhary, alleged Lalu had turned the party into the ‘B team’ of Congress in the last three months. “It will be better for Lalu Prasad to merge the party with the Congress instead of allying with it for the Lok Sabha elections,” Samrat said.

The defection of some RJD MLAs was on the cards for last few days with clear signs emerging on Sunday when Samrat accompanied chief minister Nitish Kumar to Khagaria for a foundation stone laying function.

Samrat has been peeved with Lalu for last few months over the latter’s reported reluctance to give in to his demand for the ticket from Khagaria parliamentary constituency. Raghavendra Pratap Singh and Aktharul Iman, whose names are also in the splinter group, are said to be keen on contesting from Ara and Kishanganj Lok Sabha seats.

There are indications that five to six MLAs who have defected from the RJD could be made ministers in the Nitish Kumar government soon. [PTI]