Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav on Tuesday hit out at the rival camp led by chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and suspended seven ministers from the ruling party.
With Manjhi refusing to step down and insisting on a trial of strength to prove his majority in the Bihar assembly, Yadav cracked the whip against agriculture minister Narendra Singh, education minister Brishen Patel, PHED minister Mahachandra Singh, urban development minister Samrat Choudhary, industries minister Bhim Singh (all MLCs), information technology minister Shahid Ali Khan and rural development minister Nitish Mishra (both MLAs).
Sources said JD(U) state unit president Bashishtha Narayan Singh had written a letter and asked all seven ministers to resign on February 2, but they did not obey the party’s directive. They stood by Manjhi and took some crucial decisions in the cabinet, which irked the Nitish Kumar camp.
Manjhi has the open support of 12 MLAs but his followers claim they have the backing of a large number of legislators who will help the CM prove his government's majority on February 20. Manjhi on Tuesday cancelled his official programmes and remained closeted with ministers and legislators to draw up the strategy for the February 20 trust vote.
Manjhi, who returned from Delhi, went straight to his official residence and held consultations with legal experts for initiating action against JD(U) MLA Anant Singh, who had recently threatened to beat up the chief minister.
Manjhi cancelled his two functions in state capital Patna and also called off his visit to Khagaria.
Art and culture minister Vinay Bihari, a Manjhi loyalist and who received the CM at the airport, said the chief minister’s talks with senior BJP leaders in Delhi were positive, and expressed confidence about proving majority in the House. “We are confident of proving majority on the floor of the House on February 20," he said.
Dissident JD(U) leader Gyanendra Singh Gyanoo, who met Manjhi at his residence, also exuded confidence of sailing through the confidence vote. “We will get it. There is a good response from legislators," he claimed, but refused to disclose the names of MLAs who had promised support to Manjhi.
Expelled JD(U) leader and former MP Shabir Ali also met Manjhi and claimed that the scenario would change in the state in the next 24 hours.
Nitish ups the ante
Meanwhile, senior JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, Manjhi’s predecessor and former mentor, thrashed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for justifying the 14-day time given to Manjhi to seek a vote of confidence.
Kumar, who staked claim for the chief minister’s post, accused the BJP of orchestrating the political flux in the state after governor KN Tripathi denied his request for a floor test last week.
Kumar said the situation in 2000 when he was given just a seven-day time to prove his majority should not be compared with the 14-day time given to Manjhi.
“The situations are not comparable," he said.
In 2000, an alliance of the JD(U), Samata Party, BJP, LJP and independents had won 152 seats in the 324-member Bihar assembly (before the creation of Jharkhand), while Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) also had the support of 152 MLAs.
Kumar was asked to prove his majority on the floor of the House within seven days. He failed to muster the numbers and quit before the trust vote could be taken up.
"Manjhi has been expelled by JD(U) for refusing to vacate the chair of chief minister and the party is reclaiming the post on the basis of its majority. Though BJP is clandestinely supporting Manjhi, still he does not have the numbers," he said.
“The writing on the wall is clear, as 130 MLAs of JD(U), RJD, Congress, one CPI and an independent are with us. In such a condition, giving 14 days of time to Manjhi by the governor for floor test cannot be justified," Kumar, who was elected as the new JD(U) legislature party leader, said.
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being behind the "script" to wipe him out, Kumar said, "Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi was convinced during our meeting on February 9 that opportunity should be given to Manjhi to prove majority on the floor of the assembly well ahead of February 20. But, everything changed after Manjhi met the PM."
(with PTI inputs)