Nitish Kumar, 62 stepped down as the chief minister of Bihar after a successful eight-and-a-half year stint on Monday. Jitan Ram Manjhi, legislator from Makhdumpur in Jehanabad district of central Bihar, will be the new chief minister. He is the minister for Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes welfare in the state cabinet.
JD-U leader Jitan Ram Majhi with Nitish Kumar, after he was chosen as the new chief minister of Bihar. (Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)
Manjhi was inducted as a minister in the first cabinet of Nitish Kumar in November 2005, but removed soon after a case was detected against him in connection with an education department scam, from which he was later exonerated.
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Soon after the decision, Manjhi, a Mahadalit leader, accompanied Nitish Kumar, JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav and state president Bashistha Narayan Singh to meet Bihar governor DY Patil in Raj Bhavan at 6.30 pm in order to stake claim to a new government.
Manjhi, had contested the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls as Janata Dal(United) nominee from Gaya and lost. As a minister, he played a leading role in executing the Nitish Kumar regime's welfare programmes for Mahadalits, a special category comprising the poorest among the Dalits.
Nitish Kumar used the right to choose provided to him by the JD(U) legislature party, ending a three-day episode beginning with his resignation that shook Bihar. Manjhi could take oath on Tuesday.
"His (Nitish Kumar's) decision (of stepping down) is correct," Manjhi said, adding he would follow in the footsteps of the ex-CM to take Bihar forward.
Read: Nitish tendering resignation was scripted: Ram Kripal Yadav
Earlier, the legislature party met in Patna at 2pm, agreed to accept Nitish Kumar's resignation and empowered him to name his successor with the rider that he would continue to act as the facilitator between the government and the party.
A resolution said the party would go to the next polls under his leadership.The party also wanted Kumar to be the chief minister if the Janata Dal(United) won the assembly elections slated for 2015 elections.
The resolution carried unanimously by the JD(U) legislature party also mandated that the cabinet would be reconstituted and overhauled under the new chief minister.
Kumar too said that he will return as the chief minister if Bihar gave him the mandate in 2015 assembly polls.
Read: For Nitish Kumar, work has just begun
"It is for your own good and the party that I should step down," he told the legislators, adding, "There are times when hard decisions have to be taken for the ultimate good when the issue is of re-establishing higher moral principles."
Meanwhile, Monday's meeting showed that all was not well in the JD(U), with supporters of Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar coming virtually to blows.
Sharad Yadav told the media earlier in the day, "Nitish will not take back his decision to step down… the decision is in the interest of the state and nation."
However, Nitish Kumar had a hard time convincing his party on the "higher" purpose of his decision, having resigned on Saturday, owning moral responsibility for the party's rout in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls.
Kumar called each MLA individually on Sunday night, asking them to not make his stepping down an issue on Monday and empower him to nominate the new leader unanimously.
He had also pressed party crisis managers including senior most leader, Narendra Singh, the minister for agriculture, Nitish Mishra, minister for social welfare and Shyam Rajak, the minister for civil supplies to talk to groups of MLA's unhappy at his stepping down and evolve a consensus to accept his decision to demit office.
Nitish Kumar's gamble of resigning as Bihar chief minister, taking "moral responsibility" for the JD(U)'s drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, however, seemed to have paid off.
With 117 members of the JD(U) legislature party on Sunday asking him to take back his resignation, he managed to re-unite the party and taken the wind out of the BJP's bid to poach on his men and bring down his government.