A day after he resigned as Chief Minister, JD(U) MLAs on Sunday unanimously chose Nitish Kumar as their leader and insisted that he should withdraw his resignation. While Nitish initially rejected their requests, he later sought a day’s time after party MLAs continued to protest against his decision. The JD(U) legislature party is set to meet again on Monday to take a final call.
Sources told The Indian Express that Nitish was “adamant” on not continuing as CM as he is “deeply hurt” by a “sense of rejection by voters”.
According to these sources, State Law and Planning Minister Narendra Narayan Yadav could emerge as a consensus candidate for the top post. Reported to be close to both Nitish and party president Sharad Yadav, Narendra Narayan Yadav is said to be acceptable to majority of the party MLAs.
“Nitishji has sought a day’s time… It is natural for him to seek time as he is deeply hurt. But we hope he will accept our offer and become CM again,” said JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh after the meeting.
In his 70-minute speech at the meeting, Nitish insisted that it was in the interest of the party and government to relieve him of the post. “I am deeply hurt at the BJP calling my resignation a drama. I want to work for the party and strengthen it. Since I led the election campaign, I have to take moral responsibility for the party’s defeat,” he said. Nitish said since he “was rejected by voters and his good work was not rewarded”, he should stay away from the government and work for the party instead.
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“Nitishji tried to impress upon us that if the voters missed him, they could bring him back to power in the 2015 Assembly elections. He made it clear that he did not feel comfortable being CM after such a loss,” said a minister. But the MLAs kept shouting pro-Nitish and even some anti-Sharad slogans, persisting with their demand for his return.
Senior minister Narendra Singh, who is said to wield influence on several party MLAs, also insisted that Nitish should continue as CM till the assembly elections next year. However, Nitish reportedly refused to budge from his stand.
Sharad Yadav, who had earlier justified Nitish’s decision to resign and said he should not accept re-election as legislature party leader, faced protests at the meeting. Senior minister Rami Ram, who had questioned Nitish’s leadership, was also manhandled.
Sharad is learnt to have told MLAs that pressure should not be put on Nitish to become CM again. However, the MLAs refused to discuss any other name.
Among the others in the running for the CM’s post are Bijendra Yadav, Bashistha Narayan Singh and Bijay Kumar Choudhary. But none of these names were discussed at the meeting as MLAs demanded Nitish’s return. While Bashistha Naryan Singh may not be considered as the party is not keen to pick an upper caste and also because of his lack of administrative experience, Bijendra Yadav and Bijay Choudhary may not be acceptable to majority of the MLAs.
Meanwhile, RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Sunday denied reports that he had held talks with Sharad Yadav on the option of uniting to fight a resurgent BJP under Narendra Modi.
“I have not spoken to Sharad Yadav at all. We are holding a meeting of our party leaders on Monday. We are keeping a watch on political development in the state,” said Lalu. Asked if he and Nitish would come together to fight the BJP, he said: “This question is untimely as we are not discussing it all.”
Sources said though Lalu wants to support the JD(U) government to keep the BJP out, he does not want to rush through the move. Though three RJD MLAs — Samrat Choudhary, R L Raman and Iqbal Ansari — resigned on Sunday, the party still has 21 MLAs in the House, while the JD(U) has 115 MLAs.
RJD sources said if the two parties come together, there would be a stable government. According to the sources, Lalu has been eyeing a Rajya Sabha seat for Rabri Devi, who lost the Saran battle to Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Three Rajya Sabha seats — held by Rudy, Ram Kripal Yadav and Ramvilas Paswan — will be vacated after their victories in the Lok Sabha polls. Sharad Yadav, who lost the Madhepura seat to Pappu Yadav, is also likely to get elected to Rajya Sabha.
On Sunday, BJP leaders Sushil Kumar Modi, Nand Kishore Yadav and Mangal Pandey met Bihar Governor D Y Patil and requested him to explore options of forming a stable government. The BJP, however, did not press its claim to form the next government.