JD(U) elects Nitish as leader but Manjhi remains defiant

PATNA, Feb 7: Rumblings within ruling JD(U) today took a new turn with an overwhelming majority of the party MLAs electing Nitish Kumar as their leader to replace rebel Jitan Ram Manjhi as Chief Minister who made an unsuccessful bid to recommend dissolution of the Assembly.

Moving swiftly after a day of dramatic developments, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav sought time from Governor Kesrinath Tripathi for a meeting. He is likely to stake claim for formation of Government under Kumar after the Governor returns to Patna on Monday morning.

Yadav said a total of 130 JD(U) legislators are in Kumar’s support in the 243-member House.

On the other hand, Manjhi recommended dismissal of 15 more of his ministers after similar action against two.

His close aide and minister Narendra Singh said the “Manjhi ministry will be expanded soon”. He said the help of BJP may also be taken if required.

Sidelining defiant Manjhi who has refused to step down, a meeting of Legislature Party convened by party chief Sharad Yadav elected Kumar as their leader.

Kumar, who had resigned as Chief Minister in the wake of party’s disastrous performance in Lok Sabha polls in May last year, was elected at a meeting attended by 97 of 111 JD(U) MLAs and 37 of the total 41 members of Legislative Council.

Earlier, Manjhi made an unsuccessful move to recommend dissolution of the Assembly after a last-ditch attempt for a patch up between him and the group led by Kumar failed.

At the Cabinet meeting convened by Manjhi just before the Legislature Party meeting, a proposal was mooted for dissolving the Assembly. It was supported by seven ministers besides Manjhi, while 21 pro-Nitish Kumar ministers opposed it, state Finance Minister Bijendra Yadav told reporters.

Kumar’s election at the Legislature Party meeting, dubbed by the Chief Minister as “unauthorised”, paves the way for him to take over the mantle again by replacing Manjhi whom he had handpicked to after he had resigned.

Kumar said majority was with him “and if needed, we will parade our majority numbers”, apparently referring to support of RJD, Congress and CPI which takes his number well ahead of the majority mark.

21 ministers in the Manjhi Cabinet who had rejected a proposal to dissolve Assembly at the Cabinet meeting, will meet the Governor on Monday to tender their resignations from the Manjhi ministry, party general secretary K C Tyagi said.

Meanwhile, Manjhi recommended to the Governor dismissal of 15 other ministers of his Cabinet, highly placed sources in the CM’s Office said.

Out of 20 ministers opposed to him, Manjhi has spared five — Dulal Chand Goswami, Ramai Ram, Ram Lakhan Ram Raman, Manoj Kumar Singh and Naushad Alam, the sources said.

He sent the recommendation just before leaving for Delhi to take part in a meeting of NITI Aayog with Prime Minister Narendra Modi tomorrow.

Notwithstanding the move by the majority of the Legislature Party, Manjhi plans to “expand” his “ministry” soon, according to Minister Narendra Singh, who has emerged as chief advisor of the Chief Minister.

He said if required, they would take help from BJP to keep the Manjhi ministry going.

Singh said there was no “validity” of meeting called by Sharad Yadav. “We are the ‘asli’ (true) JD-U,” said Singh, a friend of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad since 1974 JP movement who has gone against them. (PTI)

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