Intro: Bihar has been in a political turmoil for the last few months with Nitish and his one-time protege Manjhi involved in a power struggle.
The whole drama in Bihar politics started months prior to 2014 general elections: It was Nitish’s outbursts against BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi that broke the JD (U)-BJP alliance in the state.
BJP’s two-third majority in Parliamentary elections rattled Nitish to the core. He knew it would be embarrassing for him to face Modi as Prime Minister. Looking at the vote bank of more than 22 percent Mahadalits vote in Bihar, he used his trump card and handpicked Jitan Ram Manjhi to be his successor to consolidate his hold on Dalits and Mahadalits. He thought Manjhi would be a remote control chief minister. But alas, Nitish was outsmarted by his protege in a few months. Manjhi soon proved, he was not a puppet CM but a man with an independent mind. Manjhi’s rising stock amongst the Dalits and Mahadalit voters and his wish to be CM for the second time has sent Nitish in jittery. The move has gone terribly wrong because Chela Manjhi has outwitted Guru Nitish.
Presently, Bihar is under a political turmoil. Once conceived to be the castle of socialists, now has become a ring of infighters. The growing tussle between Nitish and Manjhi has changed Bihar’s political scenario. Nitish camp began by targeting Manjhi and in reply Manjhi started suspending all favourable ministers of Nitish. On February 7, JD(U) parliamentary meeting was held on Sharad Yadav direction and Nitish was elected as the Legislative Party leader. Claiming the support of 130 MLAs, Nitish Kumar had requested the Governor to invite him to prove his majority on the floor of the House as according to him 101 JD(U) MLAs, 24 of the RJD five from Congress and one Communist Party of India legislature support him.
Manjhi had also met the Governor and made a similar claim saying he also be given an opportunity to prove majority on the floor of House. Before this Manjhi called a meeting and proposed to dissolve the legislature. On this, cabinet was divided in two parts. Twenty one ministers opposed this decision whereas 7 supported it. After that, CM Manjhi has written a letter to Governor of Bihar for termination of 15 ministers. Apart from this, 5 ministers have also given their resignation to Governor. On February 8, Manjhi met with Prime Minister Modi in connection with present situation in Bihar. On February 9, Nitish visited Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi who later asked CM Manjhi not to expand his cabinet. Same day Manjhi was expelled from JD(U) with immediate effect and he was declared as unattached legislature.
On February 12, the Patna High Court ordered that Nitish Kumar can continue as the leader of JD(U) Legislative Party. The order came on a review petition filed by JDU against the court’s order that had stayed Nitish’s election.
Earlier on February 11, Nitish suffered a temporary setback as the High Court stayed his election as JD(U) Legislative Party leader after some leaders close to Manjhi, who has been expelled by the party, took legal recourse to stop the former form staking claim to form government in the state.
Manjhi has been claiming that he is still Chief Minister of Bihar but Nitish and his supporters have demanded that Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi call a special session of the Assembly and allow a floor test. The former chief minister had also met President Pranab Mukherjee on February 11. Nitish Kumar displayed a show of strength at Rashtrapati Bhawan accompanied by Lalu Prasad Yadav and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav with his group of 130 MLAs. He requested President Pranab Mukherjee to direct Bihar Governor to end the political uncertainty in the state and install a government that has majority in the assembly. The Governor has asked Manjhi to prove majority by February 20, and Nitish has criticised this move alleging conspiracy.
Bihar will face Assembly elections by the end of this year. The alliance of RJD & JD(U) though is projected as an alliance which is going to fight election together; the state is again facing caste combinations which are not good for the future of Bihar.
Manoj Sharma (With inputs from Sanjeev Kumar, Patna)