A Setback For Nitish Kumar in His Battle to be Chief Minister

New Delhi:

Bihar Governor KN Tripathi has agreed to chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's request for a vote of confidence on February 20. The decision comes as a setback to Nitish Kumar, who met President Pranab Mukherjee with 128 legislators this evening, to prove that his claim to the post of Chief Minister of Bihar is indisputable.

"We have a clear majority and we demonstrated that in Patna too. We told the President that the Governor is delaying a trust vote," Mr Kumar had said after the meeting adding, "We want an immediate decision to be taken. The delay is polluting the atmosphere and encouraging horse-trading."

Mr Kumar is engaged in a tussle for the top post with Jitan Kumar Manjhi, the man he had picked for chief minister when he resigned nine months ago.

Mr Manjhi was sacked by the JDU last weekend as its legislature party chief, but he has refused to resign as chief minister to make way for Nitish Kumar, claiming he has the support to continue.

Mr Kumar wants a special session of the assembly called for a trust vote to test his strength before the state's Budget session begins on February 20. He has argued that it must be clear whose government will prepare the Governor's address made at the beginning of the Budget session.

The Centre is, at Bihar Governor KN Tripathi's behest, assessing whether such a session can be called constitutionally once the budget session has been announced. "I need adequate time to decide on the Bihar situation. They (Nitish) came to me on the 9th, today is the 11th. All options, constitutional provisions need to be weighed," Mr Tripathi said.

Mr Manjhi has been expelled by the JDU for anti-party activities. After refusing to resign, he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, spurring allegations from the JDU that the BJP is conspiring to break it ahead of the state elections this year.

The BJP has sought to distance itself from the Bihar imbroglio. "Hopefully they will not divert their problem to the BJP," said BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.

"Within JD-U, if Manjhi government is in majority or not, it will be known in the floor test," he said.

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