Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar staked his claim to form government in Bihar on Monday after the party expelled defiant Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who insisted he would remain in the post till he was removed through a vote of confidence in the assembly.
Both Manjhi and Kumar met governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and sought a shot at power in the state, which has been in the throes of a political crisis since Manhji recommended the dissolution of the assembly to prevent Kumar’s return as chief minister, a post he relinquished after the JD-U was trounced in last year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Governor reserves opinion
Tripathi, who left for New Delhi to attend a meeting of governors, reserved his opinion on government formation so that he could study all aspects of the matter.
Kumar met the governor with MLAs from the JD-U and its allies Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress to officially stake claim to form government. The JD-U demanded the installation of a government led by Kumar within 48 hours.Video: Manjhi requests Bihar Governor for secret ballot voting
But Manjhi said Kumar's election as the new JD-U legislature party leader was “unconstitutional” and that he would remain the chief minister till he is unseated through a trial of strength on the floor of the House. He further said the vote of confidence should be conducted through a secret ballot to ensure MLAs are not “intimidated”.
JD-U says Nitish has backing of 130 MLAs
Kumar's bid to take over as chief minister comes nine months after he resigned in May last year and personally picked Manjhi to replace him. The JD-U insisted Kumar has the support of 130 MLAs in the assembly that currently has 233 members.
This includes 102 JD-U legislators, 24 of the RJD, five of the Congress, one from the CPI and one independent member.
The JD-U has said it will approach the President in Delhi if the governor doesn’t swear in Kumar within 48 hours. Party spokesman KC Tyagi said in Delhi the JD-U would join hands with other parties to block parliament’s budget session if its demand is not met.
JD-U chief Sharad Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav told reporters they had informed the governor that Manjhi did not enjoy a majority and had been expelled from the JD-U.Video: I have requested the Governor for a new CM: Nitish Kumar
Legal experts said the governor might choose a date soon and invite Manjhi first to prove his majority. If he failed to do so, the governor could invite Kumar, they said.
PIL challenging Nitish's election
A public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the legality of the meeting in which ex-CM Nitish Kumar was elected ‘leader of the JD-U legislature party’ was, meanwhile, filed in Patna high court on Monday.
It was filed on behalf of Rajeshwar Raj, the sitting JD-U MLA from Karakat assembly constituency in western Bihar, by his counsel, SBK Mangalam.