‘Chief Minister has spread misinformation to protect his government’

After the split in the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal, a section of the party leaders said on Monday that the move was a conspiracy engineered by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to protect his “minority government.”

“The Bihar Vidhan Sabha office has issued a notification that 13 MLAs have changed their party, but in realty this is a fraud. This is a mischief to harm the party. Mr. Kumar’s government is in minority. He has conspired and spread misinformation about the split,” Abdul Bari Siddiqui, senior leader and former Leader of the Opposition, said at a press conference here. 

As six MLAs denied quitting the party, Mr. Siddiqui said the Speaker should have verified the claim by calling all 13 MLAs thought to have signed a letter, expressing their wish to form a separate group in the Assembly and join the JD(U).

The RJD has 22 MLAs in the 243-seat House. Under the Anti-Defection Law, 15 of its MLAs [two-thirds] would have to leave the party to constitute a split, Mr. Siddiqui said.

 The RJD has called a meeting of its MLAs at the former Chief Minister, Rabri Devi’s residence for Tuesday.

Muslim vote

The split is may upset the applecart of Muslim faces in the party. Among the seven MLAs who left the party is Javed Iqbal Ansari. Akhtar-ul-Islam Sahin, Abdul Gafoor and Faiyazz Ahmed, forming part of the initial list of 13 rebels, returned to the party.

There has been speculation for long on Siddiqui’s unease in the RJD and his likely switch to the JD(U). However, he himself rejected the possibility of his leaving the RJD. “For two years, there have been reports that I would be Deputy Chief Minister,” he said.

He said the rebel MLAs were lured by the promise of a berth in the Cabinet.

Mr. Kumar, who severed ties with the BJP in June 2013, has not expanded his Cabinet since. 

The Muslim vote equation will also change with the likely alliance between the Lok Jan Shakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan and the BJP. Mr. Paswan enjoys the support of a section of the Muslims.

 Sources in the Congress in Bihar, however, felt that the split would not damage the RJD’s prospects in the Lok Sabha elections, though it would change the “political perception” of the leader.