The newly constituted assembly in Bihar is all set to witness its first trial of strength with both the ruling NDA and the opposition Grand Alliance on Tuesday fielding their respective candidates for the Speakers post.
Election to the post is scheduled on Wednesday and according to the Vidhan Sabha secretariat, nominations have been filed by senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Sinha, on behalf of the NDA, and Awadh Bihari Chaudhary of RJD who is the five-party opposition coalitions candidate.
Talking to reporters after Awadh Bihari Chaudhary filed his nominations, RJD de facto leader Tejashwi Yadav said, "We have made the first move. Our candidate filed his nomination papers much before the NDA decided its nominee. I am hopeful that our nominee will win".
Tejashwi Yadav pointed out that Awadh Bihari Chaudhary is a fifth term MLA, member of this house since the 1980s, well-versed in the proceedings with an excellent command of our language and has a reputation of taking everyone along.
In short, all the qualities that one would expect in an assembly Speaker. When pointed out that as per convention, the ruling alliance fields its candidate and receives unanimous support from all, Tejashwi Yadav replied testily "convention also has it that the opposition has its candidate appointed to the post of Deputy Speaker. It is true for assemblies as well as the Lok Sabha." However, in the previous assembly, we kept making a request for the same but the post was kept vacant".
Deputy Chief Minister Tar Kishor Prasad told reporters, "We request the opposition to abide by the tradition and support our candidate for the Speakers post. The Speaker is of the entire House and not of just the ruling dispensation".
Vijay Kumar Sinha, who was a minister in the previous Nitish Kumar government, profusely thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah "for reposing trust in me and demonstrating, yet again, that in the BJP an ordinary worker can scale great heights".
This is the first time since the JD(U)-BJP alliance came to power in 2005, that the saffron party has staked a claim for the Speaker's post. The BJP, which had formerly played second fiddle to the Chief Ministers party, outperformed JD(U) in the assembly polls, winning over 30 seats more than the latter.
BJP won a total of 74 seats in the recently concluded state polls while JD(U)'s tally went down to 43.
While the saffron party chose to abide by its pre-poll promise of backing Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister even if the JD(U) performed badly, the BJP seems to have extracted its pound of flesh by insisting on having its own Speaker and also getting away with the lions share in the council of ministers.
However, the candidature of Sinha has come as a surprise since till recently the name of Nand Kishore Tejashwi Yadav, a several term MLA and the former minister was doing the rounds.
Meanwhile, Asaduddin Owaisis AIMIM indicated that it might again queer the pitch for the Grand Alliance, after having damaged it in the assembly elections.
"For the election of the Speaker, the decision must be unanimous and such contests must be avoided. Upon witnessing the unfortunate bickering, we had made up our minds to the field our own candidate as well since now it seems to be a no holds barred competition", AIMIM state president Akhtarul Iman said.
Akhtarul Iman, who is one of the five MLAs of the party headed by fiery Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, added "we could not field our candidate since the deadline of Tuesday noon had elapsed. We will see what should be done tomorrow".
In the 243-strong assembly, the NDA which also includes pro-tem Speaker Jitan Ram Manjhis HAM and minister Mukesh Sahni's VIP has 125 MLAs.
The Grand Alliance which is helmed by RJD and includes Congress, CPI(ML), CPI, and CPI(M), has 109.
In addition, Mayawati's BSP which allied with the AIMIM in the assembly polls has one member. The LJP headed by Chirag Paswan, which has burnt its bridges with Nitish Kumar on an account of its belligerent stance against the JD(U) in assembly polls has one member besides an Independent.
The Independent MLA Sumit Singh recently met the Chief Minister a week ago and assured him of his full support. The LJP, which swears by its loyalty towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is unlikely to vote against the NDA candidate.
Meanwhile, proceedings in the assembly were adjourned till Wednesday upon completion of oath-taking by all but two of the 243 newly elected members.
Anant Singh and Amarjeet Kushwaha of RJD and CPI(ML) respectively could not be administered oath as both of them are in jail in connection with criminal cases.