The Telegraph
Sunday , May 18 , 2014
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Political circles weigh cause of stepdown

Nitish Kumar’s sudden resignation has caught not only his rivals by surprise. It has surprised even his MLAs.

“Nitish Kumar is our leader and he may had thought about setting a standard. But he should have called a meeting of MLAs before deciding to give his resignation to the governor,” said JD(U) MLA Izhar Ahmad. Most MLAs had no idea about the resignation and came to know about it only when the news was flashed.

That running a government was going to be difficult after the humiliating defeat was apparent on May 16 itself, when two of his ministers, Nitish Mishra and Bhim Singh, had a verbal duel in the cabinet meeting. Another minister, Ramai Ram, did not hesitate in blaming the party’s defeat to the poor selection of candidates. Ram was a contender for the party ticket from the Hajipur parliamentary seat. But the Dal re-nominated 93-year-old Ram Sundar Das. The same cabinet meeting saw at least five ministers abstaining.

Nobody other than Nitish knew that his government would not survive if his party fared poorly in the Lok Sabha polls. He had said in several election meetings that his government would go if it fared badly in the polls. “It would have been impossible for the government to function. The threat was more from inside the party than outside. MLAs and ministers would have started airing their grievances publicly. His authority would have been challenged,” said a JD(U) MLA.

Agriculture minister Narendra Singh, transport minister Brishin Patel and several others have shown defiance. Patel was among the first to oppose the party’s move to induct outsiders to field in the Lok Sabha polls. Narendra declared that during the campaigning, he had the influence to ensure JD(U) candidate from Jamui Uday Narayan Chaudhary would lose his deposit. There were JD(U) MLAs like Bablu Dev who praised Narendra Modi publicly even as campaigning was on. Apart from water resources minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and food and civil supplies minister Shyam Rajak, other ministers were seldom visible with Nitish. When BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi claimed that 50 JD(U) MLAS were in touch with him, no Dal MLA contradicted him.

Dal sources said pressure was being built on Nitish to make Narendra the deputy chief minister. Quite a few JD(U) MLAs, who were hoping to make it to the ministry after the split with the BJP, were getting impatient. Independent MLAs like Pawan Jaiswal, Vinay Bihari and Dularchand Goswami, who supported him, were also getting impatient. “After the defeat, there was every possibility of the number of dissidents swelling making it difficult for the Nitish government to survive,” said a JD(U) leader.

By resigning, Nitish appears to have taken out the steam from the dissidents, at least for the moment. “But it is bound to resume after a period of time,” said an unhappy JD(U) MLA. If a fresh ministry is sworn in (against speculations that MLAs may re-elect Nitish), he can form a new team keeping out dissident ministers and MLAs out of it.