The final stages in Bihar’s political flux mirror a cricket cliffhanger, with all the parties waiting for the slog overs during Friday’s trust vote in the assembly to show their might.
The two captains – chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and his one-time mentor, Nitish Kumar – will only pick their teams after having a close look at the playing conditions, analysts said.
Kumar is the clear favourite with the Janata Dal (United) backing him, but Manjhi supporters say he will spring a surprise.
"The depleted strength on paper is not the worry," said Manjhi loyalist Rajiv Ranjan. “Just wait for a major surprise, which will upset all calculations, like a dark horse.”
The Patna high court offered some relief to the embattled chief minister on Wednesday, lifting the ban imposed two days ago on taking any policy decisions but said implementation would have to wait till he proves his majority.
Manjhi was expelled from the JD (U) after refusing to step down from the chief minister’s post to make way for Kumar. The party also suspended seven minister loyal to him on Tuesday.
Despite exuding confidence, the Manjhi camp is yet to display any ammunition for a counterattack that could alarm Kumar’s supporters, say experts.
“You never know, which way the match will tilt. The pitch (assembly) will play a crucial role as well the toss (the chief minister's speech while moving the confidence motion),” said Bhim Singh, a minister in the Manjhi cabinet.
Though the BJP is yet to open its cards, state chief Sushil Kumar Modi has his eyes on the ball.
Asked if the BJP would throw its weight behind Manjhi, Modi said, “Let the match start. We will decide on the floor.”
Each side is trying to keep its flock together and in good humour, arranging dinners and parties for legislators.
“The aim of these dinners and lunches is to foster unity among the legislators before Manjhi takes the majority test on the floor of the assembly,” a senior JD( U) leader said.