Patna: Bihar BJP MLAs may support Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi when he will be seeking vote of confidence in the Assembly on February 20, as per reports on Monday.
According to sources, at a closed-door BJP Legislature Party meeting held in Patna this evening, party MLAs were unanimous in extending support to Manjhi, a Mahadalit, as per PTI.
All party MLAs felt that the way former Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar has "humiliated a Mahadalit" he should be taught a lesson, a senior party leader said, as per PTI. The BJP legislators will also meet tomorrow to discuss their strategy during the floor test and a final decision on the matter is likely by tomorrow evening ahead of Friday's floor test.
Speaking on the matter, BJP spokesperson Vinod Narayan Jha said that the meeting was on and the common say was that the party should support Manjhi.
"So far all BJP members are of the same view. The meeting will continue tomorrow," Jha said, as per ANI.
Reacting on the latest development, Janata Dal (United) leader KC Tyagi said that they had suspected all along that BJP was behind Manjhi's aspirations.
The political crisis in Bihar snowballed when Manjhi and Nitish had a fall out.
While Nitish accused the Bihar CM of trying to create trouble at the behest of the BJP, Manjhi said that the JD(U) leader wanted him to be just a rubber stamp which he was not ready for.
Manjhi was subsequently expelled from the party after which Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary declared him an unattached member.
Later, Nitish was re-elected JD(U) Legislature Party leader and has staked claims to the Chief Minister's post.
After meeting the Bihar Governor, Nitish also met the President and claimed that he had the support of majority of MLAs in the House.
Yesterday, JD(U) in Bihar suspended from its fold seven ministers owing allegiance to Manjhi.
The seven ministers were suspended by state JD(U) president Basistha Narayan Singh after receiving consent from the party's national president Sharad Yadav, party chief whip in the Assembly Shrawan Kumar told PTI.
The seven suspended ministers are Narendra Singh, Brishen Patel, Shahid Ali Khan, Samrat Chaudhary, Nitish Mishra, Mahachandra Prasad Singh and Bhim Singh.
Art and Culture minister Vinay Bihari is an independent.
Shrawan Kumar had said the decision on the suspension was taken after the seven ministers failed to comply with the party's direction to quit the Manjhi cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Patna High Court today modified its previous order and gave freedom to the Manjhi government to take decisions but directed that their implementation should be only after February 21.
The order was passed by a bench of Chief Justice L Narsimha Reddy and Justice Vikash Jain on a PIL filed by JD(U) legislator Niraj Kumar.
"Take decision but implementation should be deferred till February 21," the bench said, as per PTI.
The state government had sought a modification on the court's earlier order and the case was taken up today. The new counsel of the state government Varun Sinha argued that the PIL was not maintainable.
On Monday, a direction was given by a division bench comprising Justices Iqbal Ahmad Ansari and Samrendra Pratap Singh on the same PIL that respondents should not take any decision having financial implications, except for routine matters.
Besides Manjhi, there were three other respondents, the chief secretary, the principal secretary to the governor and the principal secretary to the chief minister.
The petitioner's counsel P K Shahi, an ex-advocate general of the state, had then drawn the court's attention to policy decisions taken by Manjhi, who, he said, did not have the required strength to run the government.
He had highlighted decisions like reserving work for SC/ST contracts up to Rs 70 lakh, lowering attendance for school students from 75 per cent to 60 per cent for general category and 55 per cent for SC/ST for availing benefit schemes like free cycle and uniform, besides free electricity to farmers having up to five acres.
Shahi had also referred to a similar decision by the Supreme Court in the case of government of Jagdambika Pal in Uttar Pradesh.
On the other hand, JD(U), BJP and RJD are hosting dinners for their legislators to keep them together and ensure that they do not go against the party wishes during Manjhi's floor test on February 20.
"The aim of these dinners and lunches is to foster unity among the legislators before Manjhi takes the majority test on the floor of the Assembly," a senior JD(U) leader said.
The dinner diplomacy was kick-started yesterday evening with a feast thrown by JD U) MLC Vinod Singh at the house of former minister Gautam Singh. Both are considered close to Nitish Kumar.
Apart from Kumar and other JD(U) legislators, senior leaders from allied parties - RJD, Congress and CPI - were seen attending the dinner, signalling the existing bonhomie among them and their support for Kumar.
The series of feasts continued today with parties thrown by RJD Legislature Party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui in the afternoon and senior JD(U) leader and former minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary in the evening.
Chaudhary was chosen the leader of JD(U) Legislature Party in the Assembly recently.
The feast hosted by RJD's Siddique and attended by JD(U), Congress and CPI leaders besides Nitish Kumar is being viewed as an affirmation that all the allies are together.
The parties will continue tomorrow with former Sugarcane Industries Minister Ranju Gita organising one in the afternoon at her residence.
The grand finale of dinner diplomacy will be the dinner hosted by Nitish Kumar at his official residence tomorrow evening expected to be attended by all legislators belonging to JD (U), RJD, Congress and CPI.
With Agency inputs