Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar will take oath as Bihar chief minister on February 22 after his former protégé, Jitan Ram Manjhi, quit the post minutes before a trust vote on Friday that he looked certain to lose despite the BJP’s support.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi invited Kumar to form the government after accepting Manjhi’s one-line resignation letter that said, “I hereby resign from the post”.
In a separate explanation, Manjhi outlined his “grave fear for his own personal safety and that of his nine ministerial colleagues”.
“They could make an attempt on my life and that of my colleagues. Proving my majority, despite having 52 JD-U MLA’s at my side at such cost was not worth it, neither would it have upheld the dignity of the house in such a situation,” Manjhi said. “Which is the reason why I have chosen to resign.”
Kumar, who is set to become chief minister for the fourth time, said the Bihar political drama and constitutional crisis was created by the BJP that led Manjhi up the garden path so it could capture power by proxy.
“What the BJP has done is a cruel joke with democracy. The horse (Manjhi) refused to run before the race,” he said. “They spared no attempt to split our party but our MLAs stood together like a rock.”
The chief minister-designate, who quit last year after the JD (U)’s rout in the Lok Sabha polls, sought forgiveness for the “mistake” he had made.
“Yes, I was wrong in quitting and running from responsibility by resigning. I seek pardon for it. I have erred. I will work with the same passion and take corrective steps for the benefit of the state,” Kumar said.
The JD (U) leader said the governor asked him to prove his majority on the floor of the house before March 16.
Manjhi was expelled from the Janata Dal (United) this month after he refused to step down in favour of Kumar as the state CM.
He received a boost on Thursday when the BJP issued a whip to its 87 legislators to back him, while 12 of his ministerial colleagues stayed loyal to him.
However, against Kumar’s 130 legislators, Manjhi’s support stopped at 103.
Manjhi ignored calls from former JD (U) colleagues to apologise and “come back home”, saying he would float a new political outfit with a formal announcement likely on February 28.
“A conclave is being organised here to decide on a new party,” he told reporters in Patna.
Manjhi launched a scathing attack on Kumar, alleging horse-trading by his camp, as he also slammed the speaker's conduct, which he said was against democratic tradition.
“MLAs told me about an offer of Rs 2 crore, a ministerial berth and ticket for assembly election from any seat of their choice from the Nitish Kumar camp,” he said.
The BJP said it did not repent backing Manjhi as the party wanted to send out the message to the people that it stood against Nitish Kumar “humiliating” a Mahadalit.
“We extended support to Manjhi and the onus of proving the majority of his government was on him,” said senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi. “He may have resigned but he has still won.”