Patna, May 15: Crisis erupted in the Janata Dal (United) this evening with a senior minister training his guns on the leadership for the “wrong” selection of candidates and as many as five others staying away from the first cabinet meeting convened by Nitish Kumar after the elections.
“I have no qualms in admitting that the prospects of our party are bleak. The party will suffer on account of fielding wrong candidates,” land revenue minister Ramai Ram told reporters after the cabinet meet held at the chief minister’s 1 Aney Marg residence.
The sources revealed that before Nitish’s entry for the cabinet meet, sparks had been flying between Ram and two ministers — Bhim Singh and Nitish Mishra. The chief minister is learnt to have calmed them down when he reached the venue.
The sources said more such verbal duels are expected in case the JD(U) receives a setback tomorrow. “It would then be up to Nitish Kumar to figure out how to keep his flock intact,” said a senior minister.
Ram himself had been eager to contest north Bihar’s Hajipur seat against LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan but the party had refused to oblige him. The JD(U) decided to field its sitting MP, 93-year-old Ram Sundar Das, who could be trailing in third position.
Exit poll forecasts for most of Bihar’s 40 seats indicate a similar pattern: the JD(U) is predicted to incur heavy losses across the state.
Ram’s salvo at the leadership was a double whammy for Nitish on the eve of counting with five of 14 ministers skipping the cabinet meeting.
The absentees were Narendra Singh (agriculture minister), Bijendra Yadav (energy), Narendra Narayan Yadav (planning and development), Lesi Singh (industry) and Shahid Ali Khan (minority affairs).
Sources said “too much” should not be read into the absence of Khan, who contested the polls from Sheohar, Narendra Yadav and Lesi Singh. But they described the absence of Narendra Singh, who has been critical of Nitish for quite some time, as a “deliberate ploy” to embarrass him.
Attempts to speak to Narendra Singh failed. An aide of the minister who answered the call from The Telegraph said: “Mantri ji ke ankh mein taqlif hai (The minister has some problem in his eyes).”
Sources said Bijendra Yadav, a “trusted” lieutenant of JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav, was away in Madhepura to inspect the counting process in the constituency.
Nitish sought to send out the message that he would keep working for the “transformation” of Bihar irrespective of the poll outcome. “The turnaround was only a milestone. The broader vision involves the transformation of Bihar,” Nitish wrote on Facebook.