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MLAs to meet today, Sharad feelers to Lalu

Patna, May 17: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today led all his 14 cabinet colleagues to resign, owning moral responsibility for the debacle of his JD(U) in the Lok Sabha elections.

“Owning moral responsibility for the defeat of my party, my ministers and I have demitted office. Since I had led the campaign of my party from the front, I take full responsibility for the party’s debacle,” Nitish told reporters at his 1 Aney Marg residence.

The JD(U) managed to win just two of Bihar’s 40 seats, a sharp drop from its tally of 20 in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The chief minister, however, chose not to recommend dissolution of the Assembly, whose term ends in November 2015, saying those who wished to could “explore options” of forming a government. “Since the people of the state had elected the House for five years in November 2010, we have left it open for the interested parties to form the government they wish to have,” Nitish said.

Governor D.Y. Patil has accepted the resignation of Nitish and his ministers. He has asked them to continue doing their duty till the formation of the next council of ministers, a communiqué from Bihar’s Raj Bhavan said.

Nitish has called a meeting of the legislature party tomorrow to elect a “new leader”.

Political fishing in Bihar’s muddy waters began almost immediately with JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav, who lost in Madhepura to the RJD’s Pappu Yadav, reaching out to Lalu Prasad after about two decades.

“It is the JD(U) which will form the next government. We are ready to bury the hatchet with Lalu Prasad for strengthening of the secular alliance,” Sharad said.

Contacted, Lalu sounded soft on his adversary. “Nitish Kumar’s party is in a majority in the House. We too have called our legislature party meeting tomorrow to discuss the future course of action. We are keeping a close watch on the developments,” the RJD chief, whose party won just four seats, said.

Sources in the JD(U) said Nitish had resigned keeping three broad objectives in mind: First, quelling dissension in his party; second, pre-empting the BJP from making any demand for his resignation and third, broad-basing his numerical strength in the House by incorporating more “secular” partners. “Despite resentment, it will be hard for the MLAs to raise the banner of revolt at the meeting. We will simply re-elect him as our leader,” said Gyanendra Singh Gyanu, a legislator who had earlier in the day criticised Nitish for parting ways with the BJP — a decision many in the party feel led to the debacle.

Nitish too refused to comment when asked repeatedly what he would do if his MLAs re-elected him as their leader. “It is for the legislators to decide,” he said, but added that he wouldn’t reconsider his decision to resign. “Goodbye kar diya,” he said.

The BJP smelt a “drama” in Nitish’s decision to quit. “What was the need to call a legislature party meeting in such a hurry when he had resigned as the chief minister?” said senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.

Nitish, while honouring the “verdict” of the people, justified his decision to split with the BJP, describing the elections as the “most communal” ever. “I have not seen any election taking place on such vicious communal lines. It is an ominous trend,” Nitish said.


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