Manjhi quits, Nitish to be next Bihar CM

Patna (IANS): JD-U leader Nitish Kumar will take oath as the new chief minister of Bihar Feb 22 after Jitan Ram Manjhi resigned Friday, less than an hour before a confidence vote in the state assembly.

Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi Friday invited Nitish Kumar to form the next government, a party spokesperson said.

“Governor Tripathi has invited Nitish Kumar to form the next government after he met him at Raj Bhavan and formally staked claim,” Janata Dal-United spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said.

Manjhi claimed he as well as some legislators supporting him had received threats to their lives.

Nitish Kumar Friday publicly apologised to the people for his “mistake” for having resigned as chief minister last year.

“I admit that I made a mistake by resigning as chief minister. I publicly apologise for it to the people of Bihar. Please forgive me, as I will not repeat my mistake,” Nitish Kumar said at a press conference here.

Nitish Kumar saying sorry was akin to Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s apology for resigning as the Delhi chief minister after 49 days in power last year. The AAP made a stunning comeback in the national capital, winning 67 of the 70 assembly seats.

Nitish Kumar apologised twice during his half-an-hour address to the media here. He made it clear that he will not take any such emotional decision in the future.

Manjhi Friday resigned just ahead of a confidence motion in the assembly.

“I have submitted my resignation letter to the governor. I should have quit before,” said Manjhi soon after he met Tripathi here Friday.

Nitish Kumar described Manjhi’s sudden decision to quit as chief minister just ahead of the floor test as a “unique situation”. “There was high-voltage drama.”

“This is perhaps happening for the first time. The governor was to address the joint session. Half an hour before that, the chief minister resigned,” Nitish Kumar told reporters.

Countering Manjhi’s accusation, Nitish Kumar said it was “hilarious”.

“I have never interfered in any work,” he said.

Nitish Kumar said he will work in the same manner in which he had worked during his last eight and a half years as chief minister.

“For me, governance and only governance will be the priority,” he said.

Nitish Kumar said the Bharatiya Janata Party’s game plan has failed.

“The BJP tried to split the JD-U but failed and Manjhi fled the field,” he said.

The former chief minister said the BJP wrote the script for the current political situation in his state. “The BJP supported Manjhi.”

“But Manjhi resigned after he failed to get adequate numbers to prove his majority in the assembly,” he said.

On Feb 8, the JD-U submitted letters of support to the governor staking claim to form the government. The move came a day after Nitish Kumar was re-elected the legislature party leader.

Manjhi was picked by the former chief minister as his replacement when he quit last year after the JD-U’s rout in the Lok Sabha polls.

In the 243-member assembly, the JD-U has 115 legislators – most of whom are with Nitish Kumar. The party has the support of 24 Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) legislators, five Congress legislators, two independents and a Communist Party of India legislator.

The BJP has 88 legislators and is supported by three Independents.

After he resigned, Manjhi said he had requested Tripathi to hold a secret ballot, saying, “in that case, I would have had the support of 40-50 JD-U legislators”.

“But I realised that secret ballot may not happen, and a lot of legislators would have lost their membership if it would have been known that they had voted for me, that’s why I decided to quit,” he said.

Manjhi maintained that “quite a few MLAs had met him in the night and pledged support to him”.

He accused the JD-U of “horse-trading”, an euphemism for driving a hard bargain to ensure adequate numbers in a floor test.

The BJP also accused Nitish Kumar of horse-trading and humiliating a Mahadalit chief minister.