While Delhi was voting and all TV cameras glued to Delhi polls, significant political events were happening in Bihar. Even in the evening all channels were focusing on exit polls and this news didn’t get much coverage.
Chronology of events which happened:
Feb. 6: Chief Minister recommends to Governor to remove 2 pro Nitish Kumar ministers
Feb. 7: Governor accepts recommendation.
Feb.7: Manjhi meets Nitish for a patch up. Talks fail.
Feb. 7: Manjhi calls for cabinet meeting and proposes dissolution of assembly. 7 ministers support the proposal while 21 of them oppose and boycott.
Feb. 7: Nitish Kumar is elected leader of Janata Dal United legislative party, 97 of its 111 MLAs present in the meeting. Manjhi is not suspended from party.
Feb. 7: Jiten Manjhi writes to Governor recommending dismissal of another 15 ministers and not pay heed to the recommendations of meeting of legislators which appointed Nitish as their leader.
Its rumoured that Manjhi left for Delhi where he is expected to meet BJP top brass. Nitish has alleged BJP is trying to create split in JDU. BJP has brushed off the allegations saying it is internal matter of JDU. Elections are due at the end of the year. Assembly has 243 members, JDU has 111, BJP 87, RJD 24, Congress 5, CPI 1 and Independents 5. 10 seats are vacant. So you need 117 MLAs to prove majority.
Critics see it as a big step by JDU as Manjhi belongs to Mahadalit caste accounting for 10% of total population. Incidentally it was Nitish who created this caste category. BJP is expected to blow this issue out of proportion to reap electoral gains. While JDU has alleged that BJP is trying to split the party, BJP has said it is an internal matter of JDU.
It’s clear that Manjhi doesn’t have the numbers, he has only 15 MLAs with him. Even if BJP along with independents support Manjhi, he would call short of majority at 107 MLAs. To split JDU, Manjhi needs 74 MLAs (2/3 rd of JDU strength). He was becoming a liability for the party with his controversial remarks, praise of Modi and openly challenging his mentor Nitish. This party felt was affecting the pro development image of Nitish. 64% of the voters who participated in Lok Sabha polls said they were satisfied with Nitish govt. (Source: Lokniti Report). So the party had to take the step risking the mahadalit vote bank. Nitish would lead the Janata Parivar coalition with Congress to take on BJP in the state. Exit polls in Delhi would have raised their hopes.
This brings the state under a constitutional crisis of sorts. Current CM has recommended dissolution of house, but he no longer enjoys support of his own party’s majority MLAs.
The Governor could do the following:
– He could ask Manjhi to resign as he doesn’t enjoy trust of his party MLAs. Nitish would be then sworn in and become CM.
– Whether a chief minister enjoys majority support or not can only be decided on the floor of the house. Governor could take this view and ask Manjhi to prove majority on the floor of the house. Two things could happen here:
1. Manjhi fails to prove majority. He has to then resign. Nitish is invited to form govt., he proves his majority on the floor of the house (97+24+5+1) with support of 127 MLAs, assuming 15 MLAs of Manjhi camp don’t vote for Nitish.
2. Manjhi is able to wean away sufficient MLAs (25) to prove majority with the help of BJP (87) and Independents (5). JDU will cry foul and ask Speaker to invoke anti defection law on 25 MLAs as they defied party whip. They will be disqualified as members, strength of House reduced to 208 members and Nitish installed as CM again. Nitish may finally prevail but it could get murkier.
There is no time frame for disqualification of MLAs. Speaker’s decision if final and he can take his won sweet time to decide on it. Theoretically, Manjhi can remain CM till elections, with Speaker not deciding on the disqualification case, if he is on his side.
– He can dissolve the house and recommend fresh elections.
Alternatively, Manjhi could buckle under pressure and throw in the towel.
Will BJP support Manjhi and encourage split in JDU to take revenge on Nitish? Will Manjhi survive this scare? Will Nitish coming back as CM boost Janata Parivaar chances? Interesting times ahead in Bihar in the election year.
One thing is for sure, the Manjhi episode, could stop the system of installing remote control CM or PM in India. Even the remote control can pack a punch…..