Speaker-CM face-off in Bihar reflects power struggle in Lakhisarai

The constituency is represented by BJP’s Vijay Kumar Sinha in the Assembly and JD(U)‘s Lalan Singh in Parliament

March 25, 2022 07:26 pm | Updated 07:26 pm IST - Patna

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar presents a bouquet to Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha in Patna. File

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar presents a bouquet to Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha in Patna. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The unseemly face-off between Bihar Assembly Speaker and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vijay Kumar Sinha and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the State Assembly over the alleged “misbehaviour” towards Mr. Sinha by police officials in Lakhisarai may have been settled with the transfer of a police official but locals say political control over Lakhisarai is the real reason behind the spat. Mr. Sinha has represented Lakhisarai in the State Assembly for three consecutive terms now whereas Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) president and a close aide of the Chief Minister represents the constituency in Parliament.

“The police and other district officials are said to be close to the local MP here [Mr. Singh] and they choose to ignore others like Mr. Sinha, who has been elected as BJP MLA from here for the last three consecutive terms and is Speaker of the State Assembly now. This has been the real cause of tensions between Mr. Sinha and Mr. Kumar,” a local political leader told The Hindu preferring anonymity, he quipped, for “obvious reasons”. A senior Lakhisarai-based journalist too admitted that “there has been power struggle going on between these two leaders to politically control Lakhisarai”.

Both Mr. Sinha and Mr. Singh hail from the upper caste Bhumihar community and Lakhisarai is a Bhumihar-dominated constituency.

“It’s said that the police officer who was transferred recently after his alleged misbehaviour with the Speaker was not taking action against JD(U) workers and supporters of Mr. Singh, in a case in which some BJP workers were arrested wrongfully,” the scribe said. The CM holds the important Home portfolio in the State and Mr. Singh is close to him, so, the source added, “it’s easy to understand the real cause behind the recent showdown in the State Assembly”.

“Ever since Lalan Singh won the Parliamentary poll in 2019, he has complete control over the district administration in Lakhisarai but BJP leader Vijay Kumar Sinha too is a Bhumihar and has been elected MLA several times from here, so a showdown between them is inevitable,” said local school teacher Ashutosh Kumar, also a Bhumihar.

Last week, a heated exchange was set off in the Assembly between the Mr. Sinha and Mr. Kumar after a BJP legislator raised a law and order issue in Lakhisarai and the fuming CM suddenly entered the House and told the Speaker “this is not how the House is run”. “This is violation of the Constitution,” Mr. Kumar had said. The CM was apparently furious over the Lakhisarai issue being raised by Opposition and BJP legislators repeatedly in the House for several days, causing embarrassment to the government. Mr. Sinha, too, had said, “Whenever I go to my constituency, people ask me there about the incident.”

Earlier, the Speaker had alleged wrongful arrest of some people who were said to BJP workers in Lakhisarai. They were arrested while watching a musical programme and violating COVID-19 pandemic norms during a Saraswati Puja celebration in February. Later, Mr. Sinha brought a privilege motion against policemen for “misbehaving” with him, following which the issue was sent to the Privilege Committee of the House and the Director General of Police was asked to conduct an inquiry into it.

After the spat between two leaders, a police official, Ranjan Kumar, was transferred to Areraj in East Champaran district with the same rank. He has been replaced by Sayyed Imran Masud, a young officer from Danapur in Patna district. Thereafter, both Mr. Kumar and Mr. Sinha resumed attending the House.

“The musical programme was organised by local JD(U) workers and leaders and BJP workers were merely onlookers but they were later arrested by the local police. No action has been taken yet against the JD(U) workers,” the local journalist said. When BJP supporters informed Mr. Sinha of this, he asked police officials about it and they allegedly “misbehaved” with him.

It remains to be seen who will finally reign over Lakhisarai.

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