Patna: Bihar’s ruling JD(U) seemed to be on the verge of a split Saturday, as Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi sought the Assembly be dissolved despite opposition from a majority of his cabinet even as his predecessor Nitish Kumar was re-elected legislature party chief and was likely to stake claim to form the government Sunday.
Twenty ministers, considered close to Nitish Kumar, resigned Saturday following Manjhi’s move, said a Janata Da l(United) leader.
Nitish Kumar, who was Saturday evening elected the legislature party leader at a meeting attended by nearly 100 of the party’s 115 legislators, will stake claim to form the government Sunday, the leader said.
Meanwhile, a close aide of Manjhi, who Saturday evening reached Delhi to attend Sunday’s meeting of the governing council of the NITI Aayog (which has replaced the Planning Commission), said he may take support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to run the government.
“We will take support of the BJP to run the government if there is any such need,” minister Narendra Singh, who is considered close to Manjhi, told the media.
In a day of fast developments, Manjhi earlier Saturday met Nitish Kumar for a “patch up” as the crisis deepened in the party.
“Manjhi visited Nitish Kumar’s official residence to discuss some issues for patch-up and to settle issues,” said a party leader.
Party president Sharad Yadav had invited both Manjhi and Nitish Kumar for a meeting to end the crisis in the party, the leader said.
He also held closed-door meetings with his associates including two ministers and some party legislators in the morning.
However, at a cabinet meeting he had called ahead of the scheduled legislature party meeting in the evening, Manjhi decided to recommend dissolution of the state assembly.
Minister Vijendra Prasad Yadav told the media that after minister Narendra Singh had proposed dissolution of the assembly in the cabinet meeting, 21 of the 28 ministers walked out.
His ministerial colleague Shyam Razak said: “Only seven ministers including Chief Minister Manjhi supported the move in the cabinet and 21 ministers rejected the decision.”
Razak and Yadav are considered close to Nitish Kumar.
According to JD(U) leaders close to Manjhi, the chief minister was set to send the cabinet recommendation for dissolution of the Bihar assembly to Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi.
In the legislature party meeting, Nitish Kumar was elected its new leader.
“Nearly 100 of 115 JD(U) legislators attended the meeting and elected Nitish Kumar as their new leader,” a JD-U leader said.
After his election, Nitish Kumar said: “If there will be a need, we will parade legislators in the Governor House’s as numbers are with us.”
Asserting that now the battle has began for justice, Nitish Kumar, who ruled the state from 2005 to earlier this year when he quit after the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha election, however, admitted that assembly elections later this year will be a big challenge for the party.
Meanwhile, 20 ministers, all loyalists of Nitish Kumar, submitted their resignations to the principal secretary of the governor Saturday night, party leaders said.
The crisis over the leadership issue had worsened Friday as Nitish Kumar’s supporters and Manjhi and his backers in the party were locked in a war of words, with the chief minister terming the meeting of the JD(U) legislature party Saturday “illegal” and unconstitutional and the Nitish Kumar camp threatening to take action against Manjhi.
Manjhi had called a counter-meeting of the legislature party Feb 20.
In the 243-member assembly, the JD(U) is supported by 24 legislators of Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, five of the Congress, one from the Communist Party of India and two independents.
The opposition BJP has 88 legislators and it enjoys the support of three independents. Five seats are vacant at present.