PATNA: The power crisis in Bihar deepened on Monday after defiant Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi was expelled by JD(U) which accused him of "indiscipline" and demanded that Governor Kesri Nath Tripathi ask him to take a trial of strength in the Assembly within 48 hours.
Party President Sharad Yadav ordered Manjhi's expulsion for "indulging in anti-party activities" ahead of Nitish Kumar's meeting with the Governor to stake claim to form government.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Nitish Kumar, along with 130 legislators belonging to his JD-U, the RJD and the Congress, marched to Raj Bhawan to meet the Governor to stake claim to forming the next government in the state.
Kumar's main ally Rashtriya Janata Dal's chief Lalu Prasad, who arrived here from Delhi, also joined him in the march. According to Janata Dal-United leaders, Tripathi invited Nitish Kumar to meet him 1.30 p.m. Monday after he sought time for a meeting.
"Nitish Kumar will formally stake claim to form the government when he meets the governor," JD-U spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said. He said the numbers are with Nitish Kumar as he enjoys the support of majority of JD-U legislators and its allies the RJD and the Congress.
Notably, Manjhi was hand-picked by then chief minister Kumar as his replacement last year after the JD-U's rout in the Lok Sabha polls.
Manjhi, who arrived here Monday from Delhi after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, went to Raj Bhawan straight from Patna airport to attend a function there.
"Party President Sharad Yadav has expelled Manjhi from primary membership of JD(U) for indiscipline. Article 3 of the JD(U) Constitution gives this special power to the party President under which he can appoint or expel anybody," party general secretary K C Tyagi said at a press conference in Delhi.
Calling Manjhi a "betrayer", Yadav said that he had left no other option.
"When the history of betrayal will be written, Manjhi's name will be the first in it. He went to the extent of criticising the decision of party president and said that the latter had no power to call the meeting of the legislature party.
"He made comments that amounted to gross indiscipline against the party president. There was no way left other than to expel him from the party," Tyagi said releasing the expulsion letter.
Responding to questions, Tyagi said that Manjhi is now "neither a leader of the JD(U) legislative party nor a member of the party."
Accusing the BJP of trying to create a "constitutional crisis" in Bihar, Tyagi said the JD(U) "requests the Bihar Governor to hold a trial of strength in the state Assembly within 48 hours."
Manjhi was part of Nitish Kumar government in 2005 as well as in 2010 before taking the mantle from him on May 19 last year after Kumar had resigned following a crushing defeat to his party by Narendra Modi-led BJP in Lok Sabha polls.
Manjhi, who has rebelled and is all prepared for a final showdown with mentor Nitish Kumar, has arrived in Patna from New Delhi, where he had Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Manjhi has ruled out his resignation before a trial of strength in the Assembly. JD(U) yesterday submitted letters of support from the RJD, Congress, CPI and an independent MLA to the Governor claiming that Nitish had the backing of 130 MLAs in a 243-member House.
Meanwhile, BJP today virtually put its weight behind Manjhi saying he looks confident of proving his majority.
BJP also said that the majority has to be proved on the floor of the Assembly and not in any party's office as it accused Nitish of being "hungry for power".
"We haven't taken any decision yet but we are sure that Jitan Ram Manjhi who is the Chief Minister, according to his statements, is very confident and Nitish Numar's pavilion looks very disappointed," BJP Spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
In the 243-member assembly, JD(U) has 111 MLAs, BJP 87, RJD 24, Congress 5 besides 5 independents, while ten seats are vacant. With the present effective strength of the assembly at 233, the magic figure is 117.
"When he had said that he would resign, why did Nitish design this intricate plot to sack a Mahadalit CM? What is the reason for Manjhi's resignation? What were his faults?", Hussain asked.
The senior BJP leader also slammed separatists group in Jammu and Kashmir for saying that Muslims should give birth to more children to sustain their community.
"Separatists want to remain in news and are using such language because they completely have been rejected by J-K people and have got a befitting reply. Who should have how many kids has to be decided by the mother and father," he said.
Responding to questions on the black money issue, Hussain said, "whatever list government had it has been given to SIT which has been constituted. SIT will take care of further investigations."
RJD President Lalu Prasad accompanied Kumar and Yadav to the Raj Bhawan.
Meanwhile, Rajeshwar Raj, an MLA supporting Manjhi, has filed a petition in the Patna High Court challenging Legislature Party meeting called by JD(U) President Sharad Yadav on Saturday which elected Nitish Kumar as the new JD(U) Legislature Party leader in place of Manjhi.
S B K Mangalam, advocate of the petitioner, told PTI he would mention the petition today before the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court for early hearing of the petition.
Manjhi met Modi but said no political issues were discussed. Manjhi, who was in Delhi to attend the first meeting of the NITI Aayog which replaces the Planning Commission, had a nearly 40-minute meeting with Modi.
The Bihar chief minister said he would go for a floor test in the state assembly Feb 20. "On the floor, whoever gives us support we will take it."