A day before the counting of votes for the Lok Sabha elections, Bihar’s ruling JD(U) faced a rebellion of sorts, with five of the 14 cabinet ministers abstaining from the first post-poll meeting convened by chief minister Nitish Kumar.
The absentees included Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Narendra Singh and Shahid Ali Khan — all senior ministers — and the newly inducted minister Lessi Singh.
The matter fuelled opposition claims of all not being well within the ruling party.
Already, the poor exit poll projections for party’s performance have sparked off rumours that the Kumar government’s days are numbered.
Read: Exit polls are often hit and miss affairs
Former deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has claimed that "disappointed with the chief minister", 50 JD(U) MLAs had "helped" the BJP in the elections.
Among the absentee ministers, energy minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav and planning minister Narendra Narayan Yadav are considered close to JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, who, had recently termed Kumar a "casteist".
Agriculture minister Narendra Singh’s absence assumes significance, as he had questioned the manner of ticket distribution and criticised the party’s Jamui candidate, Uday Narayan Choudhary, at an election rally. Singh is being considered a potential leader of the rebels.
The unexpected cabinet meeting had started on a sour note, with Kumar walking in to witness a tiff between rural development minister Nitish Mishra and rural works minister Bhim Singh. The two, squabbling over whether the ‘poor condition of rural roads’ was the main cause of a likely poll debacle, had to be pacified by water resources minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary and transport minister Brishen Patel.
Another senior minister, Ramai Ram, launched an all-out attack on the JD(U) leadership, claiming the party was in trouble due to "wrong selection" of candidates. A coterie of new leaders, he said, was responsible for the party’s poor projection in the polls.