Patna: The struggle for one-upmanship widened on Sunday, as a defiant Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi affirmed that he would not resign, while the rival camp led by Nitish Kumar announced he would stake claim to power on Monday and parade legislators at Raj Bhavan.
Manjhi, a 'mahadalit' leader was hand-picked by the then chief minister Nitish Kumar as his replacement last year after the rout of Janata Dal (United) in the Lok Sabha polls, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and at a press conference afterwards said he had no plans of quitting.
He said he would prove his majority in the Assembly on February 20 and step down only if he fails.
"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.
"I am still the Chief Minister of Bihar, and will remain so until the JD(U) Legislature Party decides otherwise," said Manjhi.
And added, "On the floor of the Assembly, whoever gives us support we will take it."
Manjhi was particularly harsh on Nitish Kumar who he said was "a good man, but he cannot remain without power."
"Nitish Kumar's real face is out in the open," said Manjhi.
"They (JD-U) had this misunderstanding that they will make me do whatever they want me to do," he said, adding that he refused to be a 'rubber stamp CM.'
He termed the actions of Nitish-led faction as "illegal and unconstitutional", and claimed he drew a bigger line than Kumar in "social engineering" which caused envy.
"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 may have two Deputy-Chief Ministers and one of them will be "certainly" a Muslim.
Meanwhile, Nitish Kumar's camp announced he will meet Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi at 1.30 PM 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 leader JD(U)LP leader and the party said it had replaced Manjhi after he refused to step down.
The Governor today accepted resignation of 20 cabinet Ministers loyal to Nitish, who put in their papers yesterday.
PRO to Governor S K Pathak said that the Governor took action on the advice of Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Nitish Camp Initiates Process of Government Formation
Bihar JD(U) president Bashistha Narayan Singh accompanied by leaders of RJD, Congress, CPI and an independent MLA visited Raj Bhawan and submitted the letters of support. The Governor will arrive here Monday.
"Nitish Kumar will himself meet the governor tomorrow to formally stake claim to form the government," Singh told reporters after emerging from Raj Bhawan.
"We have submitted letters of support of the RJD, Congress, CPI and an independent MLA to the Raj Bhawan comprising total 130 MLAs in favour of Kumar, who was yesterday elected as JD(U)LP leader," he said.
RJDLP leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui, his Congress counterpart Sadanand Singh, independent member and a former minister Dulal Chand Goswami and CPI leader Jitendra Narayan accompanied him to the Raj Bhawan.
97 out of a total of 111 JD(U) MLAs and 37 out of a total of 41 MLCs had unanimously chosen Kumar their new leader at a meeting convened by JD(U) President Sharad Yadav yesterday.
Though Nitish Kumar group was claiming majority, a section of MLAs of Lalu Prasad-led RJD disagreed with the decision and are rooting for Manjhi.
"I will request party and urge Lalu Prasad to continue support to Manjhi who hails from mahadalit community," senior RJD MLA Raghvendra Pratap Singh said.
Singh said he would make the point at RJDLP meeting here tomorrow morning and claimed that at least 7-8 other RJD MLAs are of this view.
Meanwhile, the bitter fight within JD(U) saw an FIR being lodged during the day against a Manjhi loyalit minister Vinay Bihari for allegedly threatening a colleague from the rival camp, a charge denied by him.
An FIR has been lodged on the complaint of former minister Bima Bharti against Bihari and MLA Sumit Singh for threatening her with dire consequences if she did not support Manjhi, station house officer (SHO) of Sachivalya police station Amrendra Kumar Jha told PTI.
Sumit Singh is the son of Narendra Singh, who has emerged as the main advisor of Manjhi.
When contacted, Bihari, who is Minister for Art and Culture, rubbished Bharti's charge.
A letter issued by Bihar Asssembly Hareram Mukhiya said Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary has recognised Nitish Kumar as the new JD(U)LP leader in the assembly.
The letter was sent to Raj Bhawan, the CMO and the office of Nitish Kumar.
It said that in view of the letter from JD(U) state President Basistha Narayan Singh apprising the decision of legislature party meeting last evening, the Speaker is according recognition to Nitish Kumar as JD(U)LP leader in place of Jitan Ram Manjhi, highly placed sources in the Assembly said
A letter submitted at Raj Bhawan on behalf of Sharad Yadav said that Manjhi was asked to resign from his post to clear the decks for Kumar's election, but he refused to do so following which the JD(U) legislators elected Kumar as their legislature party leader yesterday.
The meeting was described as 'unauthorised' by Manjhi, who before leaving for Delhi last evening had urged the governor not to recognise it.
Meanwhile, Kumar camp mocked Manjhi for saying in Delhi that he will expand his cabinet and induct two deputy chief ministers, including a muslim.
"As per today, Manjhi has 14 legislators including himself. From where will he bring legislators to expand his cabinet," Shrawan Kumar, a close aide of Kumar and former parliamentary affairs minister, told PTI.
"Manjhi seems to have lost his mental balance that is why he is making such statements," he said.
"There is still time for him (Manjhi) to resign in the interest of state and party," he said.
In the 243-member assembly, JD(U) has 111 MLAs, BJP 87, RJD 24, Congress 5 besides 5 independents, while ten seats are vacant. With the present effective strength of the assembly at 233, the magic figure is 117.
(With PTI Inputs)