Senior Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar accused the Narendra Modi government on Thursday of stifling democracy in Bihar by giving embattled chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi more time to prove his majority in the assembly through “horse-trading” of MLAs.
Kumar said Manjhi — picked to woo Mahadalit votes after a Lok Sabha poll rout — was given a licence for “horse-trading” after he met PM Modi. His comments came a day after Bihar governor Keshari Nath Tripathi said a trust vote would be held on February 20.
“The decisions are the same as Manjhi had predicted after meeting the PM. It shows that the governor is following the script written at the top level so that horse-trading is facilitated”, Kumar said.
Should Manjhi fail, preparations were on to impose President’s rule in Bihar, the former CM said. JD(U) lawmakers were being bribed with money and the promise of ministerial berths, he added.
The BJP, however, rejected Kumar’s charges with senior leaders saying the current crisis was the result of JD(U) infighting.
The Bihar assembly has 111 JD(U), 87 BJP, 24 Rashtriya Janata Dal, five Congress MLAs, a lone CPI legislator and other independents. With an effective strength of 233, the majority mark is 118.
Tripathi’s decision capped off a day of disappointments for Nitish after the Patna high court put on hold his election as the JD(U) legislative party leader. The ruling bolstered Manjhi, expelled from the party three days ago after refusing to make way for former mentor Kumar.
The state plunged into crisis last week after Manjhi refused to vacate the CM’s position for Kumar, expelling a string of ministers close to Nitish instead. The defiant CM has termed JD(U)’s treatment of him an insult to the Mahadalit community, a sub-group of 21 out of 23 castes recognised as scheduled castes in Bihar. SCs constitute 16% of the state’s population.
(With inputs from agencies)