Bihar Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe Welfare Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi is set to be the new Chief Minister after Nitish Kumar picked him to be his successor on Monday.
Mr. Kumar, however, made it clear that he would lead the party’s campaign in the 2015 Assembly election. The resolution adopted at the Janata Dal (United) Legislature Party meeting said: “Mr. Kumar will lead the party in the Assembly election and after the victory, he would assume the office of Chief Minister again.”
Earlier in the day, the JD(U) legislature party authorised Mr. Kumar to anoint his successor on condition that it would be a stopgap arrangement till the next Assembly election.
Mr. Kumar, along with party chief Sharad Yadav and State unit president Bashist Narain Singh, called on Governor D.Y. Patil and staked claim to form a new government with the support of 117 JD(U) legislators, one CPI MLA and two Independents in the Assembly with an effective strength of 239. Though Mr. Manjhi enjoys a simple majority, he can expect the support of the four MLAs of the Congress, which has resolved to support a secular government in Bihar.
Mr. Manjhi, who was once a bonded labourer, belongs to the Mahadalit community of Mushahars. He was a Minister in the Lalu Prasad dispensation and later he switched to the JD(U). Mr. Kumar inducted Mr. Manjhi in his Cabinet in 2005 but dropped him the same night on learning that he was facing corruption charges. He was inducted back after being cleared of the charges.
Mr. Kumar has stepped down from the Chief Minister’s chair to fight the Assembly elections on principle and to ensure the JD(U)’s victory. He prevailed upon the legislators to respect his decision to pass on the baton to a new leader in the interest of the party and the State.
Addressing supporters, Mr. Kumar said: “I’ll lead the party in the Assembly elections and we’ll form the government. There is no need to be disheartened.”