Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi is most likely to lose his job on or before the February 20 trust vote in the State Assembly.
After sacking him from the party earlier this month, the ruling Janata Dal (United) is keeping a close eye on its flock of 130 legislators, which includes MLAs from ally parties RJD of Lalu Prasad, and the Congress.
This is more than the 122 MLAs required to cross the majority mark in the 243-member Bihar Assembly.
JD(U) leader and likely new Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is keeping a tight vigil over his legislators. He is hosting a dinner for them on Tuesday night and a similar dinner invitation has been extended to all supporting MLAs for Wednesday, February 18, as well.
The BJP, in the meantime, has convened a meeting of its legislature party on February 18, to take a formal decision on what its floor strategy is likely to be.
However, informal discussions with Bihar BJP leaders suggest that while the party is satisfied with the damage already suffered by Nitish and efforts to destabilise him will continue, it is not wise to flirt with the danger of backing a government headed by the erratic Manjhi.Fluid situation
Although the situation was described as “fluid” by State party leaders, what the BJP would continue to hope for is that Manjhi will be able to wean away a good number of MLAs from the ruling alliance. This block of MLAs may not be enough to win the trust vote but can work as a pressure group and destabilising factor, especially if it is backed covertly by the BJP.
“It would further weaken Nitish Kumar and make him critically dependent on the RJD,” a Bihar BJP leader told BusinessLine over the phone from Patna. What this basically means is that the BJP will use Manjhi’s disruptions without actually backing him as Chief Minister.
In such circumstances, Nitish may win the trust vote, said the BJP leader, but he will function only as a “cornered, uncertain Chief Minister”.
“The situation suits the BJP, as he will then carry the burden of anti-incumbency and the threat of goonda raj being back in Bihar in the few months before elections are held in the State,” said the BJP leader.
Elections are scheduled for October-November 2015 in the politically volatile State and the BJP expects Nitish to bear the brunt of his allies’ misrule, especially that of Lalu.
What the ruling party at the Centre would not want is for Nitish to portray himself as a martyr of “backstabbing” by Manjhi at the behest of the BJP, a charge that he has repeatedly been levelling.
Although it was the JD(U) that expelled Manjhi — with Nitish admitting that it was a “mistake” for the party to have elected him to the Chief Minister’s office — it has consistently maintained that Manjhi is being “played” by the BJP.
This charge has more or less stuck despite the BJP maintaining that Manjhi’s rebellion against Nitish is “an internal matter” of the JD(U). “What can we do if they cannot keep their house together? We will decide our floor strategy but how can we help a party whose Chief Minister has rebelled?” remarked senior Bihar BJP leader CP Thakur.