Ruling out his resignation without a trial of strength in Assembly, embattled Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi today said he will prove his majority on the floor of the House or step down if he fails, and attacked Nitish Kumar for his “greed for power”.
Manjhi said BJP was welcome to support him but claimed he did not discusses politics in his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He told Modi to support Bihar in its “current” situation so that it could develop.
Putting up a brave front despite clear indications that an overwhelming majority of JD(U) MLAs is supporting Kumar, who was today recognised as new JD(U) Legislature Party Leader in his place, Manjhi said all these actions are “illegal and unconstitutional”.
“Assembly is the place to prove majority. I have already written to the Governor for convening Budget Session of the Assembly. I will prove my majority on February 19 or 20. If Nitish Kumar has numbers, why is he unduly worried. If they prove I do not have numbers, I will step down,” he told reporters soon after his meeting with Modi.
When asked how many MLAs are with him as 97 of 111 JD(U) MLAs attended the meeting yesterday to elect Kumar as their leader, Manjhi said only those MLAs matter who come ahead when it matters, suggesting he can garner more support during the show of strength.
Attacking Kumar for humiliating the “son of a Maha Dalit”, he said the former Bihar Chief Minister was happy as long as he was a “rubber stamp” but when his “self-respect woke up” and he began acting independently, his predecessor began plotting his removal.
“I know he is a good man. But he cannot live without power. He thought I am a Maha Dalit and of average intellect. For 34-35 years in politics, I played a dumb as leaders with background like me were either killed or sidelined if they dared to speak (out),” he said, claiming he drew a bigger line than Kumar in “social engineering” which caused “envy and panic”.
Playing the Dalit card, he said it was time for all political parties to decide if they stood for the poor and Maha Dalit and said he would expand his Cabinet soon.
“I can have 16-17 more Cabinet ministers and as many Parliamentary Secretaries,” he said, aiming to lure more MLAs to his side. He said he might have two Deputy Chief Ministers and one of them will “certainly” be a Muslim.
Manjhi termed as “illegal and unconstitutional” the JD(U) legislature party meeting yesterday, saying that as its leader, he was the only authorised person to convene it.
“Some people decide to call a meeting on road. Do you think it has any meaning? It has no constitutional validity. It is illegal,” he said, claiming there is no split in JD(U).
At present, he said he was not of the opinion that the Assembly should be dissolved and described the proposal of his Cabinet to dissolve the House as a “precaution” he had taken against unseen circumstances. He had not sent the proposal to the Governor, he said.
The Bihar Chief Minister was unsparing in his criticism of Kumar, who had picked him as his successor after he resigned following JD(U)’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections, saying Kumar never offered any criticism of his performance but resorted to every trick to unseat him.
“His aides would describe me as mad, fool and what not. I told him (Kumar) to stop all this and tell me if he was unhappy with my work and I would resign… For two months, I worked as he wished and you people (media) began terming me like a rubber stamp. It woke up my self-respect and this causes pain in some people’s stomach,” he said.
JD(U) President Sharad Yadav had asked him to propose the name of Kumar as the new party leader but he refused, saying “why should I do that”, he said.
Manjhi said he took forward the work of Kumar and drew a much bigger line than him when it came to the development of Dalits and people belonging to backward communities and empowering women. “What he could not I did in the context of social development.”
He was cautious in his comments on Modi and BJP, saying he had criticised and praised him on merit. “I have criticised him over the development of Bihar. He has done a few good things like in power sector,” he said, while praising his ‘Swachh Bharat’ initiative.
Asked if he considered BJP “communal”, he parried it and said communalism is in behaviour and he would not tell media about BJP’s behaviour.
He said many JD(U) MLAs were being threatened and added that he would seek support from the Lalu Yadav-led RJD too.