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JD(U) issues whip to MLAs ahead of trust vote, downplays absence of many at luncheon

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Patna, Feb 10 (PTI) Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) on Saturday said a whip has been issued to ensure the presence of all party MLAs inside the assembly on Monday when the newly formed NDA government will seek a trust vote.

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JD(U) chief whip Shravan Kumar said those defying the whip "will lose their membership" even as he maintained that it was a "routine exercise that takes place ahead of every assembly session".

"A whip has been issued, directing MLAs to remain present in the House and vote in favour of the government whenever the occasion arises. It is, however, a routine exercise that we undertake ahead of every assembly session," Shravan Kumar told reporters here.

The JD(U) leader, who is also a senior minister in the state cabinet, however, added, "Of course, defying the whip has consequences. It can result in the MLAs concerned losing their membership.

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Kumar was speaking on the sidelines of a luncheon he had hosted for party legislators at his residence, where signatures were obtained from the attendees, though a few MLAs remained conspicuous by their absence.

He, however, asserted, "A few of our MLAs could not come because of ill health. They had explained to me their difficulty. Some of them are likely to turn up tomorrow when the legislature party meeting is scheduled at the residence of my cabinet colleague Vijay Kumar Sinha, who holds the parliamentary affairs portfolio. Moreover, all would be inside the House on Monday when the budget session commences.

He also rubbished rumours that the chief minister, who is also the party president, had grown upset to see very few MLAs present at the luncheon and had left the minister's residence in a huff.

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"The chief minister had engagements elsewhere. So, he came quite early when visitors had only begun to pour in. There is no question of any misgivings. Rumours of cracks in our party ranks and some of our MLAs being in touch with the opposition are baseless," asserted Shravan Kumar.

He also made light of CPI(ML) leader Mahboob Alam, whose party is a part of the Mahagathbandhan, meeting former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, an NDA ally.

"Political figures do meet each other despite not being on the same side. We must not try to read too much into these things. Jitan Ram Manjhi is firmly with the NDA," claimed the JD(U) leader.

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Notably, Manjhi, whose Hindustani Awam Morcha has four MLAs, including himself, has also issued a whip in what he called an attempt to dispel "the confusion created by those chasing headlines and TRP".

Meanwhile, RJD MLA and spokesperson Akhtarul Iman Shahin, whose party helms the Mahagathbandhan, took a swipe at the NDA, accusing its constituents of holding MLAs captive (bandhak banaa ke rakh diya hai).

"Our leader Tejashwi Yadav, in his 17 months as deputy chief minister, has endeared himself to the people of Bihar through his emphasis on job creation. A reason why many in the JD(U) and even the BJP are now looking up to him and want to work under his leadership," claimed Shahin, who had arrived at Yadav's residence to attend a luncheon for Mahagathbandhan leaders.

He said, "I challenge the NDA to allow its members vote on the basis of their conscience. The government will fall.

Shahin, however, dismissed allegations that his party was indulging in horse trading and said the word 'khela' (game) has been wrongly interpreted by the media. When Tejashwi Yadav had uttered the word, he meant the churning that would ensue the recent political developments in Bihar." PTI PKD NAC ACD

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