PATNA: Nitish Kumar is all set to stake claim tomorrow before the Governor to form a government with JD(U) today submitting letters of support from Congress and RJD and claiming the backing of 130 MLAs even as Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi refused to step down before a trial of strength in the Assembly.
Bihar Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary today recognised Nitish Kumar as the new leader JD(U)LP leader in place of Manjhi and the party has asked Manjhi to step down. All eyes are now on Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who reaches here tomorrow.
Initiating the process of government formation under Nitish, state JD(U) president Bashistha Narayan Singh accompanied by RJD, Congress, CPI and an independent MLA visited Raj Bhawan and submitted the letters of support.
"Nitish Kumar will himself meet the governor tomorrow to formally stake claim to form the government," Singh told reporters after emerging from Raj Bhawan.
"We have submitted letters of support of the RJD, Congress, CPI and an independent MLA to the Raj Bhawan comprising total 130 MLAs in favour of Kumar, who was yesterday elected as JD(U)LP leader," he 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.
RJDLP leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui, his Congress counterpart Sadanand Singh, independent member and a former minister Dulal Chand Goswami and CPI leader Jitendra Narayan accompanied him to the Raj Bhawan.
97 out of a total of 111 JD(U) MLAs and 37 out of a total of 41 MLCs had unanimously chosen Kumar their new leader at a meeting convened by JD(U) President Sharad Yadav yesterday.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who holds the additional charge of Bihar, told PTI over phone from Kolkata that he will be reaching Patna at 9.30 AM tomorrow.
He, however, refused to take questions on the fast paced political developments in Bihar.
A letter issued by Bihar Asssembly Hareram Mukhiya said Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary has recognised Nitish Kumar as the new JD(U)LP leader in the assembly.
The letter was sent to Raj Bhawan, the CMO and the office of Nitish Kumar.
It said that in view of the letter from JD(U) state President Basistha Narayan Singh apprising the decision of legislature party meeting last evening, the Speaker is according recognition to Nitish Kumar as JD(U)LP leader in place of Jitan Ram Manjhi, highly placed sources in the Assembly said
Manjhi, who is in the national capital in connection with the Niti Ayog meeting, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Insisting that he was still the Chief Minister, a defiant Manjhi said he will step down only if he fails to prove that he enjoys the support of majority of MLAs.
His close supporters - ministers Narendra Singh and Bhim Singh were also in Delhi to hold parleys with BJP leaders.
A letter submitted at Raj Bhawan on behalf of Sharad Yadav said that Manjhi was asked to resign from his post to clear the decks for Kumar's election, but he refused to do so following which the JD(U) legislators elected Kumar as their legislature party leader yesterday.
The meeting was described as 'unauthorised' by Manjhi, who before leaving for Delhi last evening had urged the governor not to recognise it.
Manjhi today did not rule out support from BJP, saying whoever supports is welcome.
The chief minsiste said he will have cabinet expansion soon and may have two deputy-chief ministers, including a Muslim.
Attacking his mentor and now rival, Manjhi said, "I drew a bigger line than Nitish in development work for Bihar and refused to be a rubber stamp. That is why Nitish panicked and wants to remove me from CM."
Though Nitish Kumar group is cheerful claiming majority with support from RJD, Congress, CPI and Independent, a section of MLAs of Lalu Prasad's party disagreed with the decision and are rooting for Manjhi.
"I will request party and urge Lalu Prasad to continue support to Manjhi who hails from mahadalit community," senior RJD MLA Raghvendra Pratap Singh told PTI today.
Singh said he would make the point at RJDLP meeting here tomorrow morning and claimed that at least 7-8 other RJD MLAs are of this view.
Meanwhile, the bitter fight within JD(U) saw an FIR being lodged during the day against minister Vinay Bihari for allegedly threatening a colleague from the rival camp, a charge denied by him.
An FIR has been lodged on the complaint of former minister Bima Bharti against Bihari and MLA Sumit Singh for threatening her with dire consequences if she did not support Manjhi, station house officer (SHO) of Sachivalya police station Amrendra Kumar Jha told PTI.
Sumit Singh is the son of Narendra Singh, who has emerged as the main advisor of Manjhi.
When contacted, Bihari, who is Minister for Art and Culture, rubbished Bharti's charge.