Patna/New Delhi: Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi was Friday asked by Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi to prove his majority in the assembly on the first day of the budget session beginning Feb 20 - a step welcomed by his supporters but slammed as "murder of democracy" by JD-U leader Nitish Kumar.
In a related development, the Patna High Court declined to stay Nitish Kumar's election as the Janata Dal-United's legislature party leader.
Jitan Ram Manjhi
According to Brajesh Malhotra, secretary to the governor, the floor test would be done either through lobby division or secret ballot, immediately after the governor's address to the joint sitting of the state legislature.
The loyalists of Manjhi, who was expelled from the JD-U Monday after he refused to step down from his post, were upbeat.
"We are 100 percent sure that Manjhi would prove his majority with BJP's support," state minister Bhim Singh, one of the leading vocal supporters of Manjhi, told the media in Patna.
Another minister and Manjhi supporter, Vinay Bihari, said he was confident of Bharatiya Janata Party's support while claiming several JD-U legislators were in touch with them.
Senior BJP leaders, including Leader of Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi have made it clear that their party would support Manjhi.
Nitish Kumar however slammed the move, holding Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP behind the governor's plan to "murder parliamentary democracy" by giving more time to Manjhi for "horse trading to prove his majority".
"The governor and BJP are trying to murder parliamentary democracy in Bihar and Modi is behind this game plan," said the former chief minister, who returned from Delhi where he met President Pranab Mukherjee and paraded 130 supporting legislators of the JD-U, Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress, the Communist Party of India and independents.
"Modi is behind the curtain to play this game plan. Soon after meeting Modi in Delhi, Manjhi revealed his plans of horse trading openly and started his operation to split JD-U," Nitish Kumar said.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, rejected the allegations and said the crisis pertained to the JD-U.
"The allegations are baseless and we reject them. This is a desperate Nitish who is yet to come to terms with his conclusive defeat in Bihar," said Prasad, who also hails from Bihar, and accused Nitish Kumar of running a proxy government in the state for a long time.
"When the chief minister (Manjhi) started removing his (Nitish's) loyalists from important positions, he got restless," he said in New Delhi.
Nitish Kumar also said he had demanded that the governor call a special assembly session to provide a chance to the chief minister to prove his majority."But the governor has ignored our request and given enough time to Manjhi for horse trading," he alleged.
Manjhi was hand-picked by then chief minister Nitish Kumar as his replacement when he quit last year after the JD-U's rout in the Lok Sabha polls.
Meanwhile, the Patna High Court Thursday modified its own directive of Wednesday in which it had stayed Nitish Kumar's election as the new leader of the legislature party.
A division bench of Chief Justice L.N. Reddy has modified in its earlier order of stay on Nitish Kumar's election as the new leader of the legislature party, P.K. Shahi, who has filed a petition challenging the stay and requested it be withdrawn, told media in Patna.
The court Wednesday stayed Nitish Kumar's election after hearing a petition filed by Rajeshwar Raj, a legislator considered close to Manjhi.