Patna, Feb 19: A day before crucial floor test in Bihar, Assembly Speaker Udai Narain Choudhary on Thursday notified Vijay Chaudhary of JDU (Nitish camp) as Leader of Opposition replacing Nand Kishore Yadav of BJP.
Following this, BJP MLAs protested outside Assembly Speaker's chamber, says media reports.
The development comes a day before Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi is to prove his majority on the floor of the House. Embattled Manjhi, who did not attend the all party meeting, claims that he has majority support and would sail through the trust vote.
Senior minister Narendra Singh, who is in the Manjhi camp, backed the claim and said it has the support of 140 MLAs, 23 more than the magic figure of 117 in the house whose effective strength is 233.
The view of the BJP-LP meeting during the day that the party should vote for Manjhi during the confidence vote came as a boost. BJP chief spokesman Binod Narayan Jha said the majority view of the MLAs was that the party should stand with Manjhi during the trust vote. BJP's 87 MLAs support is crucial for Manjhi to have any chance of survival.
On Wednesday, Manjhi received more good news as Patna High Court gave his government the freedom to take decisions but directed that their implementation should be only after February 21.
The all-party meeting to decide on the seating arrangements during the trust vote and also the JD(U) plea to allow it to sit in opposition gallery saw vociferous protests from principal opposition BJP. As the leader of BJP in the house Nand Kishore Yadav walked out of the meeting no decision could be taken and the meeting authorised Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary to decide the issues.
JD(U)LP leader in the Assembly Vijay Chaudhary appealed to the speaker to accord his party the status of opposition party and recognise him as the Leader of Opposition during the confidence vote. He was backed by party leader Nitish Kumar.
"We have claimed the opposition seat on the basis of our number and argument that since we have to oppose the trust vote we should be given opposition status on the day," Kumar told reporters emerging from the Legislative Council of which he is a member. He said a similar plea has been submitted in Council too to accord status of opposition party to JD(U).
Leader of Opposition (BJP) Nand Kishore Yadav countered Chaudhary's argument saying the confidence vote is for the cabinet and except for Manjhi, who has been expelled, other ministers despite being suspended remain members of JD(U).
"How can JD(U) sit in both treasury and opposition sides?" Yadav asked speaking to reporters.
Manjhi was invited to the meeting but he did not attend it. Legislature party leaders of RJD, Congress and CPI were present.
Chaudhary said the house members have to sit according to arrangements made by him. "Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi will sit on his original chair marked for the CM despite being declared unattached but his other seven ministers who are still part of JD(U) despite being suspended will have to sit alongside their party colleagues."
The Speaker said he has given permission to TV channels for live telecast of the assembly proceedings on that day. He said as per the Assembly secretariat, JD(U)'s strength in the house was 109 excluding him and Manjhi. It would publish a new list of members of different political parties in the house at the earliest.
On the issue of recognition JD(U) chief whip in view of Manjhi in his capacity of leader of the house nominating his loyalist Rajiv Ranjan to the post, the speaker said as per rules the party chief has to inform appointment of a person to this post and so far the JD(U) president had not given any letter for replacing the existing incumbent Shrawan Kumar. Any whip issued by Rajiv Ranjan would be against the rules, he said.
Asked whether the Budget session would continue if Manjhi failed to win the trust vote, Chaudhary said in such an eventuality the Assembly would be adjourned sine die. Meanwhile, Kumar and his supporters remained busy in breaking bread together through the day.
(With agency inputs)