Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Saturday recommended dissolution of the assembly but the JD (U) hit back by sacking him as the legislature party leader, paving the way for the return of Nitish Kumar to the helm.
Late in the evening, just before leaving for Delhi to take part in a meeting of the NITI Aayog, Manjhi sacked 15 more ministers opposed to him, a day after showing the door to two other ministers.
The bitter power tussle between Manjhi and his mentor Kumar split the party wide open with just months to go for polls to the 243-member assembly.
Manhji’s recommendation for dissolution of the assembly was ostensibly aimed at cutting off the route for Kumar’s return as the chief minister, a post he had relinquished after the party’s trouncing in the Lok Sabha polls last year.
“The entire party supported Manjhi when we decided to make him the chief minister but the people of Bihar are upset with the way he has been functioning,” Kumar told party workers after the legislature party meet convened by national president Sharad Yadav.
Kumar later said he would stake claim to form the government before governor Keshri Nath Tripathi and parade 130 legislators, if required. The JD(U) has 115 MLAs in the assembly though only 97 attended the legislature party meeting.
The fast-paced developments landed Bihar back in a stalemate with the spotlight focused on the governor, who would have to decide between Manjhi’s recommendations or accept the pro-Kumar lobby’s claim to form the government.
“The governor has wide discretionary powers. I will examine all the aspects and situations before I prepare an opinion to forward to the governor in this regard,” said YV Giri, the advisor to the governor.
Late in the evening, the Manjhi lobby said that it could go with the BJP to retain control of the government, if needed.
“We are clear on this. If the BJP is ready to support us, we will take its support,” said Narendra Singh, the senior-most minister in the camp. The BJP has 88 MLAs.
Kumar had broken ties with the BJP after the saffron party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls last year.
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah discussed the developments in Bihar.
Shah also met Bihar’s former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and held discussions with him and other leaders from the state.
“We are keeping a close watch on the situation in Bihar. Nitish Kumar has done injustice with a mahadalit Jitan Ram Manjhi,” said senior party leader Nand Kishore Yadav.
Manjhi left for Delhi later to take part in a meeting of the NITI Aayog with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.
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