By afternoon Sunday, chief minister Nitish Kumar appeared to have enlisted the support of five of the six independent MLAs in the Bihar assembly, enough for him to head a government to the exclusion of the BJP.
With its own strength of 118 (including Speaker), the backing of these
independents seemed to have given Kumar-led JD (U) the magical majority figure of 123 in the 243-member Bihar assembly.
"All five of us independents will sit together this (Sunday) evening", said Dhaka (East Champaran) MLA Pawan Kumar Jaiswal, who was the first independent MLA to declare support for Kumar and who expects to be sworn in as a minister along with other independents siding with the JD (U).
By early Sunday, three other independent MLAs, namely - Vinay Bihari (Lauriya, West Champaran), Som Prakash Singh (Obra, Aurangabad) and Dulal Chandra Goswami (Balrampur, Katihar), were firmly on the JD (U)'s side.
Speaking for Dehri (Rohtas) MLA Jyoti Rashmi, before the break up was announced, her husband, ex-MLA Pradip Kumar Joshi, was evasive on what his wife would do. But Jaiswal was categorical Rashmi, too, was with the JD (U).
Only Dilip Verma, the 5th term independent MLA from Sikta (West Champaran) remained firm on his support for the BJP and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
"He is heartbeat of India", said Verma, a scion of the Shikarpur estate, who has been winning in his own strebgth and the popular goodwill enjoyed by his family.
Asked when he expected to take oath as minister, Pawan Jaiswal said: "Is it in my hands? But soon, I hope". His arrival on the big stage, he said, had come after long years of struggle.
"I lost two assembly elections (February 2005 and November 2005) and two legislative council polls (2003 and 2009) before hitting the victory podium in the 2010 assembly election", said Jaiswal, a farmer and a former member of the Motihari district board.
Lauria independent MLA Vinay Bihari, a first-termer who is also expected to become a minister, is a Bhojpuri lyricist of some repute. Bihari has been a campaigner for Bhojpuri language. His wife Chanchala is vice president of zila parishad, Bettiah.
Balrampur (Katihar, eastern Bihar) MLA Dulal Chandra Goswami, a longtime BJP man, who had won the 2010 assembly election as an independent candidate, said Sunday he had assured Kumar-led JD (U) of his support.
"My support is unconditional", he said, when asked if expected to become a minister. A BJP MLA from Barsoi (1995 to 2000), Goswami had defeated a JD (U) candidate in the 2010 assembly poll. He had contested as an independent after the BJP gave away Balrampur to the JD (U) in a seat-sharing agreement.
Asked why he had sided with the JD (U) despite his BJP background, Goswami said he wanted the government and the current assembly to complete their five-year term.
After initial diffidence, Som Prakash Singh, the independent MLA from Obra (Aurangabad), also confirmed Sunday he had pledged his support to Nitish Kumar, having obtained the approval of his organization, the 'naujawan sabha'.
A former sub-inspector of police, Singh had resigned from service to contest the 2010 assembly poll on an anti-corruption plank. He said he was ready to become a minister, not as a quid pro quo, but only "if offered in recognition of my ability".
In September 2012, Singh had mulled quitting politics because of his bitter experience in his fight against corruption at the grassroots level. But his supporters persuaded him against doing so.
Former MLA Pradip Joshi, husband of sitting independent MLA from Dehri, Jyoti Rashmi, said Sunday afternoon, he was still waiting for the 'mismatched' JD (U)-BJP marriage to end before taking a call on which way his wife would go.
"Why should anyone contact me?" was Joshi's counter question when HT asked him if the JD (U) leadership had established contact with him to seek his wife's support.
Joshi had fielded his wife in the 2010 poll when his own nomination papers were rejected after he was awarded a two-year jail term by the Sasaram SDJM in connection with a 2009 illegal mining case.
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