Patna: With battle lines drawn between rival factions of ruling JD(U) in Bihar, incumbent Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's camp today claimed the support of 56 MLAs of the party and RJD and exuded confidence that it would sail through the floor test whenever it happens.
New JD(U) LP leader and Manjhi's mentor Nitish Kumar has staked claim to form government with support of 130 MLAs of the JD(U) and allies RJD, Congress, CPI and an Independent during his meeting with Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. Kumar was accompanied by RJD president Lalu Prasad, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav and CLP leader Sadanand Singh.
"We have the committed support of 44 JD(U) and 12 RJD MLAs, all of whom will stand by Jitan Ram Manjhi and support his government during the trust vote whenever it takes place," Manjhi-appointed JD(U) chief whip Rajiv Ranjan told reporters.
Exuding confidence that the Manjhi government would pass the litmus test during the trust vote, Ranjan, who was expelled by JD(U) recently, claimed many more MLAs of the ruling party as well as RJD would join the Manjhi camp soon.
When asked to divulge their identities, Ranjan said it would not be 'proper' at this stage.
Apparently seeking to break the Nitish Kumar camp, he said the Manjhi government would be expanded soon to fill vacant posts of 27 ministers and two of them will be made deputy chief ministers.
Lashing out at Kumar for parading 130 MLAs in the forecourt of Raj Bhawan to 'put pressure on the governor' to invite him to form the next government, Ranjan said the floor of the assembly was the only democratic and constitutional forum to sort out contentious issue like majority support.
"Let the Nitish Kumar camp wait till the trust vote takes place in the house as and when the governor asks Manjhi to do so," he said.
Ranjan also challenged the process of election of Kumar as JD(U) LP leader and dubbed the convening of the meeting for it by JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav as 'unconstitutional' and 'undemocratic'.
A party president was not entitled to convene legislature party meeting at all. "By virtue of being the chief minister, it's Manjhi's prerogative to convene the legislature party meeting and he has convened one on February 20," he said.
The Nitish Kumar camp should have waited till then (the meeting) to discuss or elect a new legislature party leader in a democratic and constitutional manner, he added.