The brouhaha over his makar sankranti day ‘dahi-chura’ feast as house guest of RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s estranged brother-in-law Anirudh Prasad aka Sadhu Yadav, isn’t a big deal for chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Unfazed by JD (U) spokesperson Niraj Kumar’s public disapproval of the chief minister feasting with a ‘tainted’ politician, Manjhi has embarked on a ‘business cum holiday’ trip to Maharashtra with members of his family.
Manjhi landed at Pune late afternoon on Saturday for what is slated to be a three-day largely private trip, during which he was slated to make a pilgrimage trip to Shirdi and attend a private function in Mumbai.
The Bihar CM’s arrival at Pune came just hours after the JD (U) spokesperson said Manjhi’s visit to ex-MP Sadhu’s house was at odds with former CM Nitish Kumar’s agenda of good governance he was duty bound to follow.
Apparently alluding to law and order issues during the chief ministership of Sadhu’s sister and Lalu Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi (1997-2005), when Sadhu was all powerful, Niraj Kumar said Sadhu was still a much-feared figure.
A minister close to Manjhi told HT Sunday there was no precedent, as far as he knew, of a ruling party spokesman publicly criticising the chief minister of his own party. “It is easy to guess who might have prompted him to do so”.
An official who keeps tabs on the CM’s programme said Manjhi’s flight from New Delhi to Pune on Saturday got much delayed owing to fog and Republic Day preparations in the national capital.
“This means his proposed visit to the Sai Baba temple at Shirdi, about 187 km from Pune, is taking place today. The trip takes almost four hours by road but Manjhiji and family are expected to travel by helicopter”, he added.
The only official engagement on Manjhi’s itinerary is in Mumbai on Monday (January 19), to address a meeting of the Bihar foundation, a platform to facilitate interaction between the state government and the Bihari diaspora.
“Later on Monday, the chief minister is likely to attend the wedding reception in Mumbai of actor politician Shatrughan Sinha’s son Kush”, said another source close to Manjhi.
Media reports have suggested there was a possibility PM Narendra Modi may also attend the reception.
Officials in Patna said Manjhi had requested a meeting with PM Modi in New Delhi on Tuesday (January 20). But there is no confirmation yet on when exactly this meeting would take place.
“Bihar’s resident commissioner in New Delhi is co-ordinating the matter. If the meeting does not materialise on Tuesday, the chief minister may stay back in the national capital for another day”, said an official.
Manjhi’s proposed meeting with the PM has caused murmurs in the ruling JD(U), especially in the context of Manjhi’s statement at a public meeting in Jehanabad last week that he had “extended a hand of friendship” to Modi.
Manjhi’s detractors in the JD(U) have been dropping dark hints he might be ‘cosying up’ to the top BJP leadership as a hedge against Nitish camp’s alleged move to dislodge him from office.
But a source in the CM’s office said the main item on Manjhi agenda for PM was to seek financial support for elaborate state government’s preparations for the 350 birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh in 2017.
“We have a Rs 2,500 crore programme for the celebration at the 10th Guru birth place in Patna Sahib. It will be attended by Sikh pilgrims from across the world. We need the centre’s financial and logistics support”, he explained. ?