Seven ministers who authorised Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi during the February 8 cabinet meeting to recommend dissolution of Assembly and the eighth minister, who later sided with Manjhi, have either fallen out with Nitish Kumar or see an electoral future with the BJP amidst changed social equations. They may not be heavyweights but have sizeable influence in their respective regions or have made enough name to bargain with BJP.
NARENDRA SINGH * Agriculture minister in the Manjhi cabinet, Singh is an influential upper caste Rajput leader from Jamui, whom Nitish could never ignore. He never hid his support to Manjhi following the NDA split. With large sections of upper castes shifting towards BJP after the split, Singh does not see a future in the Nitish camp. If Manjhi joins BJP, Singh will be the first to take credit.
NITISH MISHRA * Mishra, son of former CM Jagannath Mishra, is looking to carve a political space home turf Jhanjharpur in Madhubani. With BJP winning both Mithilanchal seats of Darbhanga and Madhubani, Mishra sees his political future secure with BJP. He had fallen out with Nitish after being denied a ticket from Jhanjharpur in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and reportedly nursed that grudge even after rejoining the JD (U) ministry. Mishra, MLA from Jhanjharpur who denied Manjhi’s allegations of a Madhubani temple being washed after his visit, is now helping him play the Dalit card. With Brahmin voters playing a vital role, Mishra seems to back Manjhi to keep BJP in good humour.
BRISHEN PATEL * Vaishali OBC MLA Patel from Koeri caste, considered traditionally close to Kurmis, who Nitish represents, is also veering towards BJP for the 2015 polls. Patel, who was peeved at Nitish relegating his ministry, was given the important education portfolio by Manjhi. Patel had been vocal in Manjhi’s favour from the beginning of his CM tenure and is also using Manjhi’s Dalit card in a bid to appease BJP. The Koeri-Kurmi equation might be an additional USP for Patel to bargain with BJP.
BHIM SINGH * Singh, an MLC from Magadh region, was annoyed with Nitish for changing his portfolio. He had crossed over from RJD and is unsure about his political future in the Nitish camp. He has sided with Manjhi, probably with plans to cross over to BJP. Singh is not considered a grassroots leader but has the EBC tag to bargain.
MAHACHANDRA PRASAD SINGH * An MLC from Muzaffarpur, Singh is an upper caste Bhumihar leader who had long been with Congress. Singh fell out with Nitish after being denied a ticket in last Lok Sabha elections. He has sizeable influence in his area and has the caste factor on his side.
SAMRAT CHOUDHARY * Samrat, who quit RJD to become minister in Nitish cabinet, had not turned up at the meeting. But his father Shakuni Choudhary, an OBC Kushwaha leader, had quit RJD last year with hopes that Nitish would send him to Rajya Sabha. That did not work. Though Samrat became a minister, senior Choudhary held against Nitish and pushed Samrat to support Manjhi. Samrat, too, is helping Manjhi play the Dalit card and may be looking to join BJP.
SHAHID ALI KHAN * Khan, a veteran Muslim leader from Sursand under Sitamarhi, has been siding with Manjhi because he was stripped of the minority welfare ministry and was given the low-key science and technology department. He has not been comfortable following the NDA split and may take LJP route for NDA and Manjhi may well be the right conduit.
BINAY BIHARI * Culture and sports minister Bihari is first-time MLA from Lauria in Champaran. Bihari, a Rajput who was a Bhojpuri singer, is an Independent MLA and now wants a party tag. With East Champaran and West Champaran Lok Sabha seats going to BJP, Bihari may be thinking of joining BJP and getting a ticket to retain his seat in the Assembly polls.