Expert opinion has it that so long as chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi does not resign on his own, the only way to remove him from office is to defeat him on the floor of the Bihar assembly.
According to constitutional lawyer Basant Chaudhary from the Patna high court, this is the law, as established in the Supreme Court’s Bommai judgement (SR Bommai vs Union of India, 1994).
“This judgement, binding on all concerned under Article 141 of the Constitution, holds whether or not the chief minister, as leader of the House in a state assembly, enjoys the confidence of the House can only be established through a floor test,” he said.
All he needs is the ‘aye’ of a simple majority of MLAs voting irrespective of their party labels.
Chaudhary, who happens to be associated with the Aam Aadmi Party, said the Janata Dal (United) leadership was free to elect a new leader of the legislature party. “Doing so will not automatically facilitate Manjhi’s removal as leader of the House in the Bihar assembly. If he refuses to resign, the matter will go to the governor who must then order a floor test,” he added.
The most critical role in the matter will be played not by the JD(U) leadership but by governor Kesari Nath Tripathi, a former BJP leader. “We are confident the governor will accept Manjhi’s recommendations,” said a minister close to the CM.
The 87-member BJP legislature party in the assembly is ready to support Manjhi but will commit only if he can rally support of at least another 30 MLAs.
Manjhi supporters are not ruling out the recommendation of the dissolution of the House and him staying on as caretaker CM. But that will only be a last resort, said a Manjhi-backing minister.