A section in JD(U) appears to be in favour of reinstating Nitish Kumar as Bihar chief minister with CM Jeetan Ram Manjhi facing a barrage of criticism from opposition leaders as well as members of the grand alliance for “lack of control” over bureaucracy.
Nitish, who on Friday said that he would not “shy away from taking responsibility”, seems to have made his displeasure with Manjhi’s public. Amidst such speculation, Nitish visited New Delhi on Sunday and also attended a political rally in Meerut, demanding memorial to former prime minister Charan Singh .
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who reportedly conveyed his displeasure with Manjhi’s functioning, however, has not made his stand clear on whether JD(U) should continue to back Manjhi as the CM. RJD vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said, “ JD(U) alone cannot take a call on CM.” Sources within JD(U) said Lalu held the key to Nitish taking charge of the state again.
RJD sources said the party had been also “upset with Manjhi’s performance”, but it would be a tough call for even the RJD supremo to “agree to changeover”. “If we agree to Nitish as CM, it would virtually mean that the grand alliance will have to go with Nitish for 2015 Assembly polls,” said an RJD leader, explaining the “big dilemma”. Though the JD(U) sources said it would be premature to “assume that Nitish wants to be back as CM”, some senior leaders confirmed that he himself was upset with “poor control and irresponsible and off-the-cuff statements” by Manjhi which have caused embarrassment to the party and the government.
Nitish has been reportedly upset with Manjhi’s “poor handling” of Gandhi Maidan stampede in which 33 people were killed. Manjhi and Nitish, it was learnt, were in disagreement over shuffling of senior officers of Patna administration in wake of the stampede.
A senior JD(U) leader said Nitish had already taken over party affairs, galvanising cadres, but “his returning as CM” was “at academic discussion level that can be taken forward by Lalu as RJD’s support gives the JD(U) government a comfortable majority in the Assembly.
Another JD(U) leader said the grand alliance must contest next election under Nitish Kumar. “It is entirely up to RJD to decide what it wants — clarity or open-endedness on leadership position,” said the leader. An embattled Manjhi, however, looks more assertive than ever before and recently took final call on suspension of Patna Medical College and Hospital medical superintendent and transfer of four senior doctors for laxity in treatment of those injured in the stampede. “Manjhi continues to play Dalit politics and hopes for Lalu Prasad to continue to support him as CM,” said a JD(U) source.
Manjhi, for his part, sought to deflate the discussion. “Nitish Kumar is our leader and we will contest 2015 Assembly elections under his leadership and he can return as CM if people give us mandate,” he said.