Consensus at BJP Meet but no Formal Decision on Supporting Bihar Chief Minister in Friday’s Floor Test

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Patna, India:  The BJP will take its decision on supporting Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manhji in Friday’s trust vote to the wire. At a closed door party meeting today, the party said, there was consensus among its Bihar legislators that it should support Mr Manjhi.

But the BJP has also emphasised that a decision will be taken only by Thursday evening.

At the meeting, legislator after BJP legislator reportedly favoured supporting Mr Manjhi because, they argued, he is a Mahadalit who has been “insulted” by his party leader Nitish Kumar. Mahadalits are one of the poorest and most underprivileged castes in Bihar.

Mr Manjhi is being forced to prove his strength because his party, the Janata Dal United, wants Nitish Kumar back as chief minister. Mr Manjhi has refused to resign stating that he has the numbers to remain in the top post.

Nitish Kumar has alleged that Mr Manjhi’s rebellion has been scripted by the BJP. Nine months ago he had handpicked Mr Manjhi to take his place as chief minister when he stepped down after his party was routed by the BJP in the national elections.

The BJP’s top leadership in Delhi is said to be averse to direct involvement in the JD(U) crisis as they do not want to hand Nitish Kumar the advantage of playing political victim months before the state votes for a new assembly. Its ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – which is monitoring the party’s moves in Bihar after a disastrous showing in the Delhi elections – reportedly backs that assessment.

What the BJP will have its eye firmly on as it makes its decision is the support that Mr Manjhi can cobble up. He is said to have 12 JD(U) legislators on his side and the BJP, if it supports him, has 87. With three Independents, Mr Manjhi looks good to deliver 102 ayes in his support. He needs 117 to touch the half-way mark.

Nitish Kumar has the support of 128 MLAs. He will gather them all at a dinner party tomorrow, hours before the Manjhi floor test.

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