PATNA: Bihar today plunged into a political crisis with the ruling JD(U) electing Nitish Kumar as legislature party leader, but rebel Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi refused to step down and could be wooing BJP in a bid to stay in power.
On a day of dramatic developments, Manjhi called a meeting of his Cabinet where he proposed recommending dissolution of the Assembly but was strongly opposed by 20 Ministers loyal to Nitish Kumar while only eight supported the CM.
While the Chief Minister claimed he was authorised to take a decision on dissolution, he recommended dismissal of 15 more ministers loyal to Nitish after removing two last night.
In a counter move, 20 ministers loyal to Nitish have sent their resignation to Governor Kesrinath Tripathi, who is expected to reach here on Monday.
In the evening, at a meeting called by JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav that was attended by 97 out of 111 MLAs, Nitish was elected the legislature party leader and the party said he would stake claim to form government.
Nitish said majority was with him "and if needed, we will parade our majority numbers", apparently referring to support of RJD, Congress and CPI which takes his number well ahead of the majority mark.
Sharad Yadav also sought time from the Governor to stake claim for formation of government under Nitish.
In a House of 243, JD(U) has 111 MLAs, RJD 24, Congress five, CPI one and two Independents who are with JD(U) while BJP has 87 seats.
However, making clear that Manjhi was not ready to give up, his close aide and minister Narendra Singh said the "Manjhi ministry will be expanded soon". He said the help of BJP may also be taken if required.
Singh said there was no "validity" of meeting called by Sharad Yadav. "We are the 'asli' (true) JD-U," said Singh, a friend of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad since 1974 JP movement who has now gone against them.
Meanwhile in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions with party chief Amit Shah and other senior leaders on the developments in Bihar.
Shah also met party leaders from the state to chalk out strategy in the state, including former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi who said the party was keen on fresh polls.
All eyes are on Manjhi, who arrived in Delhi today for participating in Niti Aayog meeting tomorrow, whether he approaches BJP leadership to help him with numbers in case he is able to split JD(U).
He is accompanied by Minister Narendra Singh.
Kumar, who had resigned as Chief Minister in the wake of party's disastrous performance in Lok Sabha polls in May last year, was elected at a meeting attended by 97 of 111 JD(U) MLAs and 37 of the total 41 members of Legislative Council.