Nitish Kumar will get back the reins of Bihar on Sunday, capping a fortnight-long political drama which ended in an anti-climax with rebel JD(U) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi resigning as chief minister shortly before the floor test today sensing imminent defeat.
“The Governor accepted our claim to form government and invited me to take oath in Raj Bhavan at 5 PM on February 22,” Kumar told reporters after meeting Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and staking claim to form government.
Kumar, who was accompanied by RJD, Congress, CPI MLAs and an independent legislator, said he has been asked to prove his majority on the floor of Assembly in three weeks time before March 16.
His government would take a decision to call the new budget session and fix a date for the Governor’s speech in the joint session, the chief minister-designate said.
A series of high-voltage political events that saw Kumar back to power after nine months began today with the resignation of Manjhi who sensed the clear lack of number to pass the crucial floor test in the Assembly.
Manjhi, who had been throwing a challenge to Kumar with the support of a handful of dissident JD(U) legislators and ministers and support from BJP, submitted his resignation to the Governor at 10:15 AM in the morning.
With politics taking centre stage, Tripathi had cancelled his inaugural speech at the joint sitting of Bihar legislature.
Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary announced cancellation of the Governor’s address due to “special circumstances” and later adjourned the house sine die.
This would be the fourth time that Kumar will take on the mantle of Bihar chief minister.
His first stint had lasted merely a week from March 3 to March 10 in 2000 and the second from November 24, 2005 to November 24, 2010.
The third term was from November 26, 2010 till he resigned from his post on May 17, 2014 in the wake of the debacle of JD(U) in the general election. He had then handpicked Manjhi to succeed him but the mentor and the protege later parted ways.
To questions by scribes whether parties supporting him would be part of his new government, Kumar did not give any categorical answer.
“At the moment a new government will be formed,” he said.
Kumar met JD(U) President Sharad Yadav at the state guest house before going to Raj Bhavan.
He had also tendered a public apology for his ‘mistake’ in quitting and appointing Manjhi in his place as chief minister.
“I make a public apology to the people of Bihar and promise I will never repeat such a mistake by taking an emotional decision,” he said.
Kumar, who drove JD(U) into severing 17-year long ties with BJP, attacked the saffron party for propping up “a handful of JD(U) disgruntled elements” against him and writing the “script” of the events that took place in Bihar in recent days. “Their (BJP’s) gameplan has failed,” he said.
He criticised BJP for siding with Manjhi in the expectation of dalit support. “By humiliating Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary who is also a mahadalit, have you enhanced his respect?”
Ridiculing Manjhi for playing the ‘dalit card’, Kumar said it was he who had coined the term mahadalit to segregate the poorest among dalits for special welfare treatment.
Manjhi skipped the inaugural session of joint sitting of Bihar legislature and told mediapersons at his residence that though he had the majority support of 140 MLAs he did not proceed ahead considering the “threat of bloodshed and harassment of MLAs siding with him.”
Manjhi claimed he had decided to step down as his supporters were issued death threats and he did not want the legislators to lose their assembly membership.
He claimed that a large number of JD(U) MLAs who were at Nitish Kumar’s residence had visited his house from its backdoor at around 1 AM.
“There was fear on their faces and I thought I should not put them in trouble by exposing them to the Nitish Kumar camp by going ahead with trust vote and decided to quit.
All his eight ministers, seven of JD(U) and one Independent, were by his side at the press conference.