Patna: Bihar`s ruling JD-U Friday appeared headed for a split over the likely replacement of Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi by his predecessor Nitish Kumar.
A day after Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav called a meeting of its legislature party for Saturday, amid speculation that Manjhi will be removed, the chief minister Friday called a meeting of the JD-U legislature party for Feb 20.
Earlier, Manjhi refused to resign and termed the Sharad Yadav-convened meeting illegal and unconstitutional.
JD-U national general secretary K.C. Tyagi Friday said a majority of party leaders, including legislators, were with Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar.
He, however, said the JD-U leadership never expected that Manjhi would openly revolt against the party`s decision.
Two ministers, Brishen Patel and Nitish Mishra, Friday declared their support to Manjhi and said they would not attend the legislature meeting called by Sharad Yadav.
Patel and Mishra are considered close to Manjhi. Last month, JD-U spokesperson Alok Ajai sought their resignation as they were allegedly planning to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"I am with Manjhi... Manjhi himself has declared that he won`t attend the legislature meeting," Mishra told media after meeting the chief minister. "Only Manjhi is authorised to call the JD-U legislature party meeting."
Manjhi also enjoys the support of over a dozen party legislators. But he is banking on the support of the BJP, which is openly backing him.
Tyagi said: "We never expected that Manjhi will openly revolt against the party`s decision."
Tyagi told IANS here that the party was uncomfortable with Manjhi`s repeated controversial statements that damaged the party`s image among people. "Manjhi is not above the party and the party`s decision is final and supreme."
He said the party would take action against Manjhi for describing the meeting of the JD-U legislature party called by Sharad Yadav as unconstitional and if he fails to attend it.
"Manjhi is in minority and Nitish Kumar enjoy support of majority in the party," Tyagi added.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Ramdhani Singh said the JD-U would elect its new leader in the legislature party meeting Saturday called by Sharad Yadav. "We do not accept Manjhi as our chief minister any longer," he said.
Nitish Kumar is yet to say anything about the ongoing developments in the party.
The JD-U has 115 legislators in the 243-member assembly.
It is supported by 24 legislators of Lalu Prasad`s Rashtriya Janata Dal, five of the Congress, one from the Communist Party of India and two Independents, making it a total of 147 -- more than the 122 needed for a simple majority.
The BJP has 88 legislators and it has the support of three Independents. Five seats are vacant.