Patna: Janata Dal(U) in Bihar today suspended from its fold seven ministers owing allegiance to chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, ahead of the February 20 trial of strength for him on the floor of the Assembly.
The seven ministers were suspended by state JD(U) President Basistha Narayan Singh after receiving consent from the party's National President Sharad Yadav, party chief whip in the Assembly Shrawan Kumar told PTI.
The seven suspended ministers are Narendra Singh, Brishen Patel, Shahid Ali Khan, Samrat Chaudhary, Nitish Mishra, Mahachandra Prasad Singh and Bhim Singh. Art and Culture minister Vinay Bihari is an independent. JD(U) has already expelled Manjhi from the party after which Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary declared him an unattached member.
Shrawan Kumar said the decision on the suspension was taken after the seven ministers failed to comply with the party's direction to quit the Manjhi cabinet. The rival camps of Manjhi and his mentor-turned-foe Nitish Kumar meanwhile held separate consultations with their supporters to firm up their strategies even as BJP refused to show its cards.
Manjhi on return from Delhi after a two-day visit headed straight to his residence and was closeted with supporters to draw up the strategy for the February 20 confidence vote. Ministers Narendra Singh and Vinay Bihari, dissident JD(U) leader Gyanendra Singh Gyanoo and expelled JD(U) MP Shabir Ali were among others who met Manjhi at his residence.
Vinay Bihari exuded confidence of sailing through in the floor test. "We are confident of proving majority on the floor of the house on February 20," he told reporters. Former chief minister Nitish Kumar remained at his 7 Circular Road residence with senior party leaders who kept pouring in through out the day.
JD(U) MLC Binod Singh is hosting a dinner for all MLAs supporting Nitish Kumar from JD(U), RJD, Congress, CPI and an independent. A similar dinner is scheduled at senior leader Vijay Chaudhary's residence tomorrow and at Nitish Kumar's residence on February 19, JD(U) sources said.
Basistha Narayan Singh said the seven ministers have been suspended for "indiscipline" as they were told to quit the ministry after Manjhi was expelled from the party and declared an unattached member. "But party whip will be applicable on them as they have been suspended and not expelled from the party," he told PTI.
All eyes are set on BJP which refused to show its cards. "There is still two days left. The party will decide its stand on Manjhi trust vote on February 20 on the floor of the Assembly," senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi told reporters after returning from Delhi during the day.
He said he has apprised BJP national president Amit Shah about the situation in Bihar. BJP has called a two-day meeting of its legislature party starting tomorrow to take 'ground-level feedback' on the issue of support to Manjhi in the confidence vote. Support of 87 MLAs belonging to BJP is crucial for Manjhi to reach the magic figure of 117 and pass the floor test.
Nitish Kumar continuing his offensive against BJP congratulated West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over telephone for Trinamool Congress' victory in by-elections in that state, a statement from Kumar's office said. Banerjee had recently called up Kumar and assured to fight with him if BJP tried to impose President's Rule in Bihar.
Kumar had yesterday hailed Shiv Sena for speaking the 'truth' on BJP's role in Bihar's present political situation. BSP supremo Mayawati too promised support against 'BJP's gameplan to impose President's rule in Bihar.' Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), RJD and CPI have already supported Kumar in his fight to 'foil BJP's gameplan and to break JD(U) by propping up Manjhi'.
Blaming BJP for the 'chaos' in Bihar by propping up Manjhi against him, Nitish Kumar attacked the saffron party for justifying the 14-day time given to seek a vote of confidence compared to only seven days to him in 2000.
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being behind the 'script' to wipe him out, Kumar said "Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi was convinced during our meeting on February 9 that opportunity should be given to Manjhi to prove majority on the floor of the assembly well ahead of February 20. But everything changed after Manjhi met the PM."
Meanwhile, an FIR was today registered by Manjhi's nephew against JD(U) MLA Anant Singh for allegedly threatening to beat him up for chalking out a different path from Nitish Kumar.