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'If Nitish Kumar loses, he is finished'

By Archana Masih/
Last updated on: February 10, 2015 18:16 IST
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Nitish Kumar'For two months, Jitan Ram Manjhi kept a low profile. After that, two things happened -- one was his own political ambition.'

'Secondly, all those who were opposed to Nitish Kumar, either within the party or outside, started supporting him.'

As Delhi welcomes a historic mandate, Bihar is convulsing in crisis.

Its Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi was expelled by his party, the Janata Dal-United, leading to a tussle between him and his mentor, former chief minister Nitish Kumar, for the CM's kursi.

Now it is left for the state's acting governor to avert a Constitutional crisis. As the political uncertainty continues in the state where assembly elections are scheduled for later this year, Professor Prabhat Ghosh, director, Asian Development Research Institute, tells Archana Masih/ how things came to head between Jitan Manjhi and Nitish Kumar.

How do you see the political crisis unfolding in Bihar?

At the moment, what lies ahead in Bihar's politics, depends on what steps the governor will take. The governor has gone to Delhi and is not back as yet.

The background is that Nitish Kumar got a drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. There was pressure for him to take moral responsibility.

Normally leaders do not resign, but Nitish Kumar did so and thought he could be a part of the decision making process even if he was not the chief minister through a chief minister who was his own person. That was the game plan.

He chose Jitan Ram Manjhi, a man from the extremely backward caste, Musahar.

Manjhi's background, education, communication, experience is much better than a typical scheduled caste MLA.

He has an MA and was picked up 30 years ago by (then Bihar chief minister) Jagannath Mishra as a potential political entity and he joined the Congress.

He also has some kind of social base in one or two constituencies in his home district of Gaya. So he was not an absolutely weightless person. He was first loyal to Jagannath Mishra, later to Nitish Kumar.

For two months, he kept a low profile. After that two things happened -- one was his own political ambition.

Once he was put in a place of power even though he had not acquired it himself, he thought he deserved it. He thought he must promote his own political career.

Secondly, all those who were opposed to Nitish Kumar, either within the party or outside, started supporting him.

BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) people used to pamper him time and again. There were some in the JD-U who were not happy with Nitish Kumar and they also started supporting him.

Initially he made one or two embarrassing comments, later he started asserting himself like choosing senior IAS officers for posting.

In the last few months, he had started saying what policies he wanted, what IAS officers he wanted in what post etc.

Initially people in the party used to underplay this fact. Sharad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and also (Rashtriya Janata Dal leader) Laloo (Prasad Yadav) used to say that he would continue, but in the last two weeks things went out of control.

The BJP also made it known to him that if Nitish Kumar throws him out, they would put their MLAs behind him. He (Manjhi) went for a showdown and that showdown has lead to this situation.

The majority has to be decided by the state assembly, and not the governor. The assembly is scheduled to reconvene on February 21 for the Budget session.

The governor has to take a decision whether he should wait after the 21st for Manjhi to prove his majority -- that will provide a gap of 15 days where all kinds of manipulation can take place. Or he can say if you want to prove your majority, prove it within 3, 4 days -- which is the usual time given to others.

We have to wait and see what decision, the governor will take.

Jitan Ram ManjhiWhat is wrong in Manji trying to be politically ambitious?

It is fine to have personal political ambitions and make your base wider, but not at the cost of the party.

He had already been given certain amount of weight -- to take it so far that the party itself is threatened, that is what is not being appreciated by the JD-U.

Image: Jitan Ram Manjhi.

Was his expulsion because he met the PM or was there no other way left for the JD-U but to expel him?

When the expulsion took place, it had already been decided that there was a clear divide and a majority has to be decided in the assembly.

How will this impact Nitish Kumar?

If Nitish Kumar wins a majority, his position will be strengthened.

Suppose he loses, he is finished.

I don't know where he will go, it all depends on who wins the majority.

A third possibility is that the governor does things in such a manner that things are in a flux, giving way to President's rule.

Even if Nitish Kumar wins the majority, won't he be on the back foot till the assembly elections?

Not necessarily. If he wins the majority, he is asserting his power.

His status will be strengthened and with some understanding with Laloo, he will go for elections.

But he will go into the election weaker than what he was in the last assembly election.

Slightly weaker because Jitan Ram Manjhi will not be with him, but in a sense he will be stronger because he will have shown that he has been victorious in a difficult situation.

This provides the BJP with a political opportunity.

All the non-BJP forces are divided. Laloo, the Congress and two factions of JD-U are the four entities. If all these four parties fight with each other, the BJP becomes stronger.

The BJP will face a strong opposition if at least three of these four are united.

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