Patna : JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar has capped the rebellion in his party for now. By stepping down as the chief minister he had withdrawn himself from the line of fire; he had also taken the high moral ground which may pay dividends later in the Assembly election.
Now, by naming his handpicked nominee from the underprivileged class — Jeetan Ram Manjhi – as his successor, Nitish has ensured that the reins of the government stay in his hands. Also, he has thereby scuttled attempts by his colleague Sharad Yadav, the JDU National President, to assert his authority: the latter had reached out to Lalu to seek a political realignment much to the annoyance of Kumar.
Kumar has found his own replacement in Backward & Economically Backward Classes Welfare Minister Jeetan Ram Manjhi, a Mahadalit from the Musahar community. Though he was among the JD (U) candidates who were defeated in the polls, party sources say his elevation to the top post is an attempt to consolidate lower caste votes ahead of assembly elections due next year.
Majhi, a veteran politician who has earlier been in the Congress and Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, is not known for his administrative skills but is described by critics as a fit candidate for “proxy Chief Minister.”
“After the rout, Nitish Kumar has chosen a good escape route and foisted a dummy chief minister, just as the Congress did by appointing Manmohan Singh to run the government through remote control,” said BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi, Kumar’s former deputy in the government.
Since the entire Cabinet too has resigned with him, Kumar will also leave his imprint on the new ministers. So, he can now function as an extra-constitutional authority until it suits him. Sharad Yadav, too, who was against snapping ties with the BJP, has been isolated. Yadav was also known to be an L K Advani crony.
It was Sharad who kept insisting that Kumar should remain firm on his stand and not withdraw his resignation. The resignation is in the interest of the party and the state, Sharad had claimed.
Now, Nitish is likely to take over as the next party president from Sharad Yadav as demanded by the party legislators. At the legislators meeting here, the JDU legislators also demanded that Sharad should also own up moral responsibility for the defeat of the party in the Lok Sabha elections and resign.