Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi is likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday evening, a day after Janata Dal (United) MLAs elected Nitish Kumar as the leader of the legislature party.
The ongoing political crisis in Bihar may feature in the talks between the two leaders expected to be held around 5pm. Manjhi is in Delhi to attend a meeting of the newly formed NITI Aayog.
Amid speculations over his political career, the Bihar CM, however, put up a brave face. "Manjhi ki nao kabhi nahin dubti hain (Manjhi's boat never sinks)," he said, playing with his surname Manjhi (which means sailor). But he declined to make any further comment.
Sources close to Manjhi, who has refused to step down from his post in the face of a power tussle, said he wanted the BJP to support his case against Nitish, his one-time mentor.
Meanwhile, clearing the decks for the formation of a government under the chief ministership of Nitish Kumar, a delegation of leaders from the JD(U) and other allies submitted letters of support to the governor's office.
"We went to the Raj Bhawan and submitted letters of support of 130 MLAs, including those from RJD, Congress, CPI and independent MLA Dulalchand Goswami, in favour of the newly elected JD(U) legislator party leader Nitish Kumar," state JD(U) president Bashistha Narayan Singh said.
Grappling with the crisis within, JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi said, "The fact is BJP president Amit Shah is working overtime to engineer a split in our party, like he is doing with TMC."
The Manjhi camp in Bihar said on Saturday that it could go with the BJP to retain control of the government, if needed.
"We are clear on this. If the BJP is ready to support us, we will take its support," said Narendra Singh, the senior-most minister in the camp.
In Delhi, Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah discussed the developments in Bihar after Manjhi recommended the dissolution of the state assembly and the JD (U) hit back by sacking him as the legislature party leader.
Shah also met Bihar's former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and held discussions with him and other leaders from the state.
Although the BJP is keen to exploit the crisis within the JD(U) to consolidate its position in Bihar, it is also wary about propping up Manjhi, whose tenure has been criticised by its state unit for poor governance.
The lack of support for the Mahadalit leader within his own party may dissuade the BJP from coming out openly to back Manjhi as it believes that numbers in the Bihar assembly clearly favour Nitish.
The fault lines in the ruling JD(U) in Bihar widened after Manjhi sacked 15 ministers opposed to him late on Saturday evening, just before leaving for Delhi. Earlier, he had shown the door to two pro-Nitish ministers.
The bitter power tussle between Manjhi and his mentor Nitish has split the party wide open with just months to go for polls.
Read: Bihar assembly speaker recognises Nitish as new JD(U)LP leader
Manhji's recommendation for dissolution of the assembly was ostensibly aimed at cutting off the route for Nitish's return as the CM, a post he had relinquished after the party's trouncing in the Lok Sabha polls last year.
"The entire party supported Manjhi when we decided to make him the chief minister but the people of Bihar are upset with the way he has been functioning," Nitish told party workers after the legislature party meet convened by national president Sharad Yadav.
Nitish later said he would stake claim to form the government before governor Keshri Nath Tripathi and parade 130 legislators, if required. The JD(U) has 115 MLAs in the assembly, though only 97 attended the legislature party meeting.
The fast-paced developments landed Bihar back in a stalemate with the spotlight focused on the governor, who would have to decide between Manjhi's recommendations or accept the pro-Nitish lobby's claim to form the government.
"The governor has wide discretionary powers. I will examine all the aspects and situations before I prepare an opinion to forward to the governor in this regard," said YV Giri, the advisor to the governor.
(With PTI inputs)