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Bihar power struggle: Nitish to stake claim, Manjhi wants trial of strength

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Patna / New Delhi (Feb. 08, 2015): The power struggle in Bihar JD(U) appeared headed for a fullfledged confrontation in the assembly as Nitish Kumar prepared to stake claim on Monday to form a government, while Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi ruled out his resignation before a trial of strength.

Nitish will meet Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi at 1.30 pm, Raj Bhavan sources said after JD(U) submitted letters of support of the RJD, Congress, CPI and an independent MLA claiming that Nitish had the backing of 130 MLAs in a 243-member House.

Bihar Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary too recognised Nitish Kumar as the new JD(U) Legislative Party leader, and the party said it had replaced Manjhi after he refused to step down. Manjhi, who was in Delhi in connection with the NITI Aayog meeting, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid speculation that BJP could play a crucial role in a possible trial of strength.

Meanwhile, Tripathi accepted the resignations of 20 cabinet ministers loyal to Nitish, who put in their papers on Saturday. The Governor's action was based on the advice of CM Manjhi, PRO to Governor S K Pathak said.

In the 243-member assembly, JD (U) has 111 MLAs, BJP 87, RJD 24, Congress 5, five are Independents while 10 seats are vacant. With the present effective strength of the assembly at 233, the magic figure is 117.

"This crisis has arisen because of Nitish Kumar and his obsession for power. It's an internal row brewing within JD(U). ...They are blaming us as they are unable to handle their own crisis," BJP party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.

Insisting that he was still the CM, Manjhi, who is a mahadalit, said he will step down only after he fails to prove majority on the floor of the House. He said BJP was welcome to support him but claimed he did not discusses politics with Modi but told him to support Bihar in its "current" situation so that it could develop.

"Assembly is the place to prove majority. I have already written to the Governor for convening the 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 said soon after meeting Modi.

Terming the actions of the Nitishled faction as "illegal and unconstitutional", Manjhi said Nitish was happy as long as he was a "rubber stamp" but when his "self-respect woke up" and he began acting independently, he began plotting his removal.

"I know he is a good man. But he cannot live without power. He thought I am a mahadalit and of average intellect. For 34-35 years in politics, I played dumb as leaders with background like me were either killed or sidelined if they dared to speak," he said, claiming he drew a bigger line than Kumar in "social engineering", which caused envy.

The BJP hit back at JD(U) over allegations that it trying to create a rift in the party, saying the entire crisis was triggered by former Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and his obsession for power - a line toed by Manjhi after his meeting with Modi.