Deep political crisis in Bihar

Ruling JD-U elects Nitish Kumar as legislature party chief over defiant Manjhi; Kumar likely to stake claim to form govt today

Patna: Rumblings within ruling JD(U) on Saturday took a new turn with an overwhelming majority of the party MLAs electing Nitish Kumar as their leader to replace rebel Jitan Ram Manjhi as Chief Minister, who made an unsuccessful bid to recommend dissolution of the Assembly. Twenty ministers, considered close to Nitish Kumar, resigned on Saturday following Manjhi's move and sources said Kumar is likely to stake claim to form the government on Sunday.

Nitish Kumar
Nitish Kumar

Moving swiftly after a day of dramatic developments, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav sought time from Governor Kesrinath Tripathi for a meeting. He is likely to stake claim for formation of government under Kumar after the Governor returns to Patna on Monday morning.

Yadav said a total of 130 JD(U) legislators are in Kumar’s support in the 243-member House. On the other hand, Manjhi recommended dismissal of 15 more of his ministers after similar action against two. His close aide and minister Narendra Singh said the “Manjhi’s ministry will be expanded soon,” adding that the help of BJP may also be taken if required.

Sidelining a defiant Manjhi who has refused to step down, a meeting of Legislature Party convened by Sharad Yadav elected Kumar as their leader. He  was elected at a meeting attended by 97 of 111 JD(U) MLAs and 37 of the total 41 members of Legislative Council. Earlier, Manjhi made an unsuccessful move to recommend dissolution of the Assembly after a last-ditch attempt for a patch up between him and the group led by Kumar failed. At the Cabinet meeting convened by Manjhi just before the Legislature Party meeting, a proposal was mooted for dissolving the Assembly. It was supported by seven ministers besides Manjhi, while 21 pro-Nitish Kumar ministers opposed it. Meanwhile, Minister Singh and Bhim Singh left for Delhi to talk to the BJP’s national leadership to get the party’s support, a party leader said. Manjhi flew in to New Delhi from Patna to attend the NITI Aayog meet today.

Union minister Ramvilas Paswan described the development as “unconstitutional” and sought President’s rule or early election in Bihar. A case against Sharad Yadav, general secretary K C Tyagi and spokesperson Neeraj Kumar was also filed at a local court at Hajipur in Vaishali district on the charge of “conspiring to remove” Manjhi. The BJP also attacked Kumar, accusing him of doing injustice to a ‘Mahadalit’ Manjhi, while PM Modi and party chief Amit Shah discussed the issue with party leaders.      

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