New Delhi: To clear the path for his return as Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar caught a flight to Delhi on Tuesday evening, accompanied by nearly 70 lawmakers from his party. Another batch of nearly as many legislators had landed in the capital earlier.
Mr Kumar, who is 63, plans to parade the lawmakers for President Pranab Mukherjee to prove that his claim to the top elected office in Bihar is indisputable. Mr Kumar says he wants to take a trust vote immediately, but Governor KN Tripathi is denying him that right.
“We have presented everything to the Governor showing that we are eligible to form the government. But a delay in his decision is polluting the environment,” Mr Kumar said.
That is not the opinion of Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is the current Chief Minister. Just eight months ago, he was made Chief Minister by Mr Kumar, who resigned to accept blame for his party’s abysmal performance in the national election.
Mr Manjhi was expelled on Monday from the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) for his refusal to make way for Mr Kumar. Unfazed, Mr Manjhi called a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to establish that he still calls the shots. A compact group of seven ministers showed up.
A delay in a trust vote to test Mr Kumar’s strength will lead to opportunistic defections, the JD(U) has argued.
Mr Kumar and his colleagues have blamed Mr Manjhi’s rebellion on a conspiracy by the BJP in an attempt to bisect the JD(U) before Bihar votes later this year. Ahead of the national election last year, the JD(U) and the BJP uncoiled their long alliance in a nasty break-up. Mr Manjhi’s support group is tiny within the JD(U); but the BJP – till Monday’s disastrous rout in Delhi – was richly alluring on account of its recent wins in several state elections. In Bihar, the JD(U) has been functioning as a largely spent force with a minority government.