Attempts by the JD(U)’s top leadership to ensure a “peaceful” handover of the Chief Minister’s post from Jitan Ram Manjhi back to Nitish Kumar appears to have hit a hurdle. Manjhi has decided to stay away from a meeting of the party’s legislators on February 7 to seal the deal.
The CM’s office issued a statement on Thursday, saying Manjhi would not attend the meeting. It added that it is “the CM who is empowered to convene such a meeting and since he has not called for it, he will stay away”.
Manjhi further signalled his displeasure at the proposed leadership shift by saying in Jehanabad on Thursday, “Since I have been
working for the poor, I have been put under a lot of pressure.”
JD(U) state president Bashistha Narayan Singh, meanwhile, confirmed that the February 7 meeting “has been called to discuss leadership and other issues”.
Interestingly, after many in the “Janata Parivar” spoke in favour of Nitish, Manjhi received support from the NDA camp with LJP chief and Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan saying that “no power can remove Manjhi”.
According to political observers, Paswan’s move is an attempt by NDA to expand its support base among Dalits.
JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav, meanwhile, met Nitish and Manjhi separately on Thursday to “ensure a smooth transition”.
Sources said that Yadav tried to convince Manjhi that only Nitish, with his “pro-development” image, can challenge the BJP under Narendra Modi’s leadership, with the Assembly polls coming up this year. But Manjhi was not keen to oblige despite being offered a minister’s post for his son and a “respectable position” for him within the organisation, they added.
According to JD(U)’s national spokesperson K C Tyagi, “I am not aware of what transpired during Sharad Yadav’s conversation with Nitish Kumar and Jitan Ram Manjhi, but it is true that Nitish alone is the face of development in the party. Besides, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has supported Nitish and expressed the desire for his return as CM.”
While Yadav has not issued any statement in Nitish’s support, SP leaders said the party may support the previous CM with a rider that Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter Misa Bharati gets the post of Deputy CM.
RJD chief Lalu has already given the green signal for Nitish’s return as Bihar CM, saying it’s a “JD (U) prerogative”.
(With inputs from ENS Lucknow)