With the Janata Dal (United) staking claim to form a government under Nitish Kumar to replace chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, all eyes are on governor Keshari Nath Tripathi who holds the key to resolution of the political crisis in Bihar.
As the state witnessed hectic political activities since Friday, West Bengal governor Tripathi -- who holds additional charge of Bihar -- remained conspicuous by his absence. Latest reports said he was likely to arrive in Patna on Monday.
Should the governor administer oath to Kumar following his election as JD(U) legislature party leader?
The Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress have already said they supported Kumar’s reinstatement. But with Manjhi refusing to step down , the governor can’t install Kumar without convening a special session of the state assembly to have a floor test.
The state is scheduled to go to polls in November after expiry of the current assembly’s term.
It’s clear the ruling party is divided. Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party — which has 87 members in the 243-member assembly — has come out in Manjhi’s support. A section of the RJD too is not in favour of Manjhi’s removal — a Mahadalit.
Even as Manjhi termed the JD(U) legislature party meeting as “unconstitutional”, state assembly speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary was quick to recognise Kumar as its new leader.
However, the beleaguered CM can very well survive the floor test with support from the BJP, some RJD MLAs and his own supporters in the JD(U), should there be one.
The 243-member Bihar legislative assembly has 233 members as nine members have been disqualified and one member of the BJP died recently. Of the 233 MLAs, the JD-U has 111, BJP 87, RJD 24, Congress five, CPI one and five are independents.
But there is a catch. Before Kumar was elected JD(U) legislature party leader, the state cabinet reportedly authorised Manjhi to take a decision on recommending dissolution of the state assembly. Most of the ministers had walked out and the quorum was barely met.
What if Manjhi chooses to send the recommendation for dissolution of the state assembly to the governor? Should the governor act on such an advice?
“There are two options before the governor. He can accept the cabinet’s advice and the assembly can be dissolved. Or, if the governor has any doubts about the chief minister enjoying majority support in the assembly, he can ask for a floor test to ascertain it,” constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap told HT.
Asked if the governor was bound by the recommendation of a cabinet meeting in which most ministers didn’t take part, Kashyap said, “We don’t know who took part in it and who boycotted it. Cabinet meetings are secret and we won’t know what transpired in this particular meeting. But if the majority was against dissolution, they could have very well opposed it and prevented such a decision, rather than walking out as has been reported.”