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Nitish to sleep over Dal clamour
MLAs call for withdrawal of resignation

Patna, May 18: The political stalemate in Bihar continued with Nitish Kumar, who resigned as chief minister yesterday, coming under intense pressure from JD(U) legislators to continue in the post.

The MLAs, who had whipped up a frenzy, categorically rejected Nitish’s offer to them to have a new leader and spare him to work for the party to take on the challenges posed by the Narendra Modi-led BJP ahead of the 2015 Assembly elections.

The chief minister had led his 14 cabinet colleagues to resign yesterday owning moral responsibility for the JD(U)’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections. The party ended up with two seats, a sharp drop from its tally of 20 in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

The legislature party, which met this evening, decided to take the final call on choosing a new leader tomorrow after Nitish sought a day’s time to consider their demand.

“The chief minister has sought a day from the legislators to think over their demand to reconsider his decision,” party spokesman Sanjay Singh told reporters after emerging from the closed door meeting at 1 Aney Marg around 6.45pm, almost three hours after the session began.

But the stalemate continued with most of the JD(U)’s 115 MLAs sitting on dharna inside the chief ministerial residence. Some of them even threatened they would resort to a fast-unto-death if Nitish refused to rescind his resignation. Nitish, however, had not given them any indication that he would withdraw his resignation till the time of the filing of this report.

Nitish’s decision to quit was prompted by the growing murmurs of dissent within the party against the decision to part ways with the BJP last June over Narendra Modi. The JD(U) government is in a minority in the 243-member Assembly with 115 MLAs. Its survival so far has been dependent on the backing of Independents and the Congress.

Hundreds of party cadres started gathering around 1 Aney Marg since early this morning, holding placards and shouting slogans against Nitish’s decision to demit the office. They were particularly incensed by the statement of JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, who, while leaving for Patna from New Delhi, had announced that the party would choose a new leader to replace Nitish.

Sharad had to face the wrath of the cadres outside 1 Aney Marg and that of MLAs inside the meeting. While the cadres punched blows on his car, the MLAs spoke in unison to gag him. “You, as the party president, have no business in deciding whom we will elect as our leader. Keep shut,” one of the MLAs was learnt to have tersely told Sharad, who lost his Madhepura seat to the RJD’s Pappu Yadav.

Sources said that land revenue minister Ramai Ram, who was angry with the party leadership for refusing him a ticket from Hajipur against Ram Vilas Paswan, was one of the first to propose the re-election of Nitish as the legislature party leader. Another “dissident”, agriculture minister Narendra Singh, too said the party would not accept anyone other than Nitish as its leader. The ministers for transport and water resources, Brishen Patel and Vijay Kumar Choudhary, made an impassioned plea to Nitish to take his resignation back.

Nitish, according to sources, argued that taking back his resignation wouldn’t be prudent. “Once I have resigned, it will not be prudent for me to take my resignation back. It will give the Opposition ammunition to describe my resignation as a drama, showing up our party in bad light. Spare me from the government’s responsibility to allow me to work for the party and prepare it for the 2015 Assembly elections. I am sure that if spared, I will make the party robust enough to stage a comeback in 2015 with a resounding victory,” he is learnt to have said.

The MLAs, however, refused to buy Nitish’s argument. Sources said that barring four suspended MLAs — Punam Devi Yadav, Anu Shukla, Renu Kumari Kushwaha and Sujata Devi — the remaining members and also two Independents, Vinay Bihari and Dulalchand Goswami — who have been supporting the government, joined the chorus asking Nitish to take his resignation back.

Sources said that some MLAs tried to throw chairs at Sharad when he stood up to speak. Nitish tried to calm the nerves, arguing: “Our government has done extremely good work over eight years. It should not be a problem for anyone of you to get elected as the new leader to run the government. Let me have more time to work for the party.”

But the MLAs refused to relent even as Nitish took two breaks, asking them to coil back on their insistence.


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