The last-minute patch up efforts between Jitan Ram Manjhi and his party JD(U) failed on Saturday and the Chief Minister went ahead with proposing dissolution of the Assembly which was overwhelmingly rejected by Cabinet ministers at a meeting here.
Bihar elections are scheduled for later this year, and the party wants Nitish Kumar as the face of its campaign.
The proposal for dissolving the Assembly was supported by seven ministers besides Manjhi, while 21 pro-Nitish Kumar ministers opposed it, state Finance Minister Bijendra Yadav told reporters.
The proposal to dissolve the Assembly was moved by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh at the meeting attended by all the 29 ministers.
Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan and P K Shahi did not attend as Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi earlier in the day had accepted the Chief Minister’s recommendation to dismiss them as ministers.
Food Minister Shyam Rajak, a close confidante of Kumar, told reporters that those who sided with Manjhi and approved the proposal to dissolve the assembly were Narendra Singh, Brishen Patel, Binay Bihari, Shahid Ali Khan, Nitish Mishra, Bhim Singh and Mahachandra Prasad Singh.
The cabinet meeting took place immediately after Manjhi’s meeting with Kumar for nearly two hours of talks, which was seen as last-ditch effort for a patch up between two warring groups within JD(U).
Manjhi, who has been defying the party leadership’s directive of resigning, drove to the residence of Kumar, his mentor, with whom he has been locked in tussle. The meeting at Kumar’s residence was also attended by JD(U) President Sharad Yadav.
Manjhi has, in recent months, signalled that if he were forced out of office, crossing over to the BJP is a viable option. Others in his party could follow.