Manjhi later indicated to reporters that his days as chief minister were numbered. “I am the CM for a short period. I know that I am not an extraordinary person,” he said after the event at SK Memorial Hall organised by the Arajkiya (non-government) Prarambhik Sikshak Sangh.
Manjhi’s despondence stems from the fact that no one in the Janata Dal United spoke in his defence over the controversy surrounding the appointment of his son-in-law Devendra Kumar as his personal assistant.
The chief minister blamed the cabinet coordination department for the controversy, saying they should have known the rules. “The moment I learnt about it, I removed my son-in-law as my PA,” Manjhi said.
The June 2014 circular appointing Devendra was in gross violation of an order issued by the same department in 2000. The order prohibits relatives of those holding constitutional posts from taking on jobs such as that of personal assistants.
Though Devendra has resigned, the controversy has given Manjhi-baiters a chance to assert themselves.
Among the five ministers who stayed away from the SK Memorial Hall event this morning were seniors such as Brishen Patel, Shrawan Kumar and Shyam Rajak. The two others who didn’t show up were Samrat Chaudhury and Vaidnath Sahni.
Rajak expressed ignorance over the programme. “I was not invited and neither did the organisers meet me,” he said.
A minister close to Nitish Kumar questioned Manjhi for accepting the invitation from an outfit that wants private educational institutes to be taken over by the state. “The government’s policy on the issue is clear, that no private institute will be taken over by it,” the minister said.
Surprisingly, the only person to come out in support of Manjhi was RJD MP Pappu Yadav. “Some persons in the JDU don’t want Manjhi to succeed,” he said.
Nitish-baiters see a plot being hatched by the supporters of the former chief minister in discrediting Manjhi.
“It’s an open secret in the JDU that Manjhi is no longer wanted. Should they remove Manjhi, we will cobble up the numbers inside the Assembly in favour of Manjhi,” said disqualified JDU legislator Gyanendra Singh Gyanu.
“Nitish Kumar made Manjhi the CM because he wanted to play the Mahadalit card. Now Nitish is insulting a Mahadalit. He should pull up the ministers for absenting themselves,” added former JDU MP Shivanand Tiwari.
Some JDU leaders told The Telegraph under cover of anonymity that the pro-Nitish camp refused space to Manjhi. “From the very first day, Manjhi had his hands tied as a ‘stop-gap’ CM. His writ was not followed by ministers and even officials,” said a leader.
However, Manjhi was not willing to be a mere “rubber stamp” and began exerting his powers by making announcements (most of them have remained unfulfilled) and carrying out transfer of officials without the consent of Nitish.
Manjhi’s detractors say the administration of Bihar has suffered under him. Law and order has nose-dived; ditches have resurfaced on the roads; no major investment proposal has been forthcoming; the drive against corruption appears to have been given up. “To be fair to Manjhi, the decline started during the Nitish era after the focus shifted from good governance to politics. Manjhi just aggravated the decline,” a JDU leader said.
But what has worried Nitish supporters is Manjhi’s rapport with Dalits, who constitute 16 per cent of the electorate, particularly the Mahadalits, with whom Manjhi has identified himself. This section stayed with the JDU even during the Lok Sabha polls. “Manjhi represents the pride of the Mahadalits and he has urged them to unite,” said another JDU leader.
All this uncertainty is hurting Bihar’s growth. “This lame-duck situation will hit Bihar further as no major decisions will be taken,” said a senior IAS officer.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta