Patna: Amid reports of his growing distance with Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Monday described his predecessor as "supreme" leader of JD(U) and said he would propose name of Kumar from his party for the post of CM after the merger.
"Aaj bhi Bihar me Nitish Kumar se acha Mukhya Mantri nahi hain...Vilay ke bad apne party se unka nam mukhya mantri ke liye main rakhunga (there is no better CM than Nitish Kumar till date...After merger I will propose his name for the post of Chief Minister)," Manjhi told reporters after "Janata Ke Darbar me Mukhya Mantri" programme.
He, however, said after merger leaders of all partner parties would deliberate on the proposal and take a decision whether to accept it or "choose a new name considering situation emerging at that time."
He said there was unnecessary hype in the media about my ouster "jabki aisi koi baat nahin thi (when there was no matter like that)".
Asked than why Nitish Kumar refused to give assurance about his continuation on CM chair, Manjhi justified Kumar assertions and said "he is a mature politician so why he will say something which could have given strength to the unsubstantiated reports."
In reply to a question about motive behind his assertions that a dalit should be next CM of the state, Manjhi said "I vented the aspiration of weaker sections to which I myself belong to."
Amid reports of heightened speculation about reports of his removal from CM post which got wings with Nitish Kumar's trip to Delhi, Manjhi had in West Champaran two days back played "dalit card" to save his chair and said a dalit should be CM of the state which was seen as his attempt to foil chance of Nitish Kumar to return to the post.
On his welcoming judgement of Patna High Court restoring membership of four rebel JD(U) MLAs which reports suggested did not go down well with Nitish Kumar camp, Manjhi objected to usage of "baggi (rebel)" for these party legislators and said he had welcomed judgement of both the HC and earlier that of Assembly speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary on them.
"I enjoy support of all JD(U) MLAs and no question of winning rebels and others within the party," Manjhi who was flanked by senior minister Narendra Singh, who had spoken strongly in his favour during the crisis, added.
The Bihar Chief Minister said that he spoke in praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remind him of his tall promises of providing fund for development of Bihar.
"I have said publicly that if he fulfils all the promises he made to people of Bihar like giving special status, special attention among others I will turn his supporter," Manjhi said.
He justified his raking issue of unity among Schedule Castes (SCs) and Schedule Tribes (STs) to hold power for their well being.
"Ab ek cheez saf ho gaya hai ki jo log dalit aur mahadalit ke vote ke liye panja marne ki koshish kar rahe the ab kamyab nahi honge (now one thing is for sure that those who were trying to poach on SCs and STs vote will not succeed)," he said in an apparent dig at BJP.
Manjhi had on several occasions appealed to the SCs and STs which constitutes about 22 per cent of vote in the state to forge greater unity to play a decisive role in choice of Chief Minister.
Manjhi apparently supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unwritten decision of fixing 75 year as cut off age for becoming a minister in his Cabinet said "I myself is now 70 and considering whether to contest election in future or not."
"About 70 per cent of my thought says I shall not but 30 per cent says yes...But one thing is sure I will not contest any election after 75 year of age," Manjhi said.
In reply to a question about his government considering doing away with Nitish Kumar government decision to provide benefits of free cycle, uniform and books only to school students having 75 per cent attendance, the Chief Minister said this was to provide benefits to more students.
He denied undoing things of Nitish Kumar rule and said decisions have to be taken on the basis of experience with passing of time.