Bihar plunges into crisis as Manjhi revolts against JD (U) leadership

NEW DELHI: Bihar was plunged into a political crisis after Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi rebelled against the Janata Dal (U) leadership and recommended dissolution of the Assembly on Saturday.

On a day of high political drama, Mr. Nitish Kumar got himself elected as leader of the JD (U) in a bid to unseat his one-time protégé whom he had helped install as the Chief Minister.  Mr. Manjhi was expected to keep the seat warm till the return of Mr. Nitish Kumar who resigned after the JD (U)’s humiliating defeat at the BJP’s hands in the Lok Sabha elections nine months ago.

 Things did not work out that way as Mr. Manjhi, a Dalit leader, decided to chart out his own course and began defying the party leadership. Mr. Nitish Kumar began making his moves to wrest the Chief Minister’s gaddi  by unseating his successor.

Mr. Manjhi struck first by recommending to Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi the dismissal of two Ministers on Friday. A day later, he convened a Cabinet meeting and passed a resolution recommending dissolution of the 243-member Assembly.

Cabinet divided over Assembly dissolution

Finance Minister Bijendra Yadav said that only seven Ministers supported the resolution while the rest walked out in protest. Sources, however, said that this number (seven) was sufficient for the passage of a Cabinet resolution. Mr. Manjhi has also recommended dismissal of 15 dissenting Ministers but the Governor said he had not receive any letter to that effect.

The JD (U) leadership had earlier made unsuccessful efforts to persuade Mr. Manjhi not to trigger a split in the party and to facilitate the return of Mr. Nitish Kumar as the Chief Minister As he did not yield, a meeting of the JD (U) LP was convened and Mr. Nitish Kumar elected as leader.

 Mr. Manjhi dubbed the meeting as `unauthorized and unconstitutional’ while JD (U) president Sharad Yadav wrote a letter to the Governor that the CM no longer enjoyed the confidence of the Assembly.

The Chief Minister has only a dozen JD (U) MLAs behind him but he enjoys the support of the 88-member BJP. A majority of 115 party MLAs are with Mr. Nitish Kumar who is also backed by the RJD and other parties.  His followers expressed confidence that he would take over as CM.

The political crisis is a setback for the JD (U) since elections to the Bihar Assembly are due in 2015. The recent alliance between JD (U) and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD was expected to halt the march of BJP particularly after reports that the saffron party might not fare well in the Delhi elections.

All eyes are now on Governor Tripathi who holds additional charge of Bihar. Mr. Tripathi is likely to visit Patna on Sunday to take stock of the situation and appraise the Centre.

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