Till now, Nitish had refused to publicly speak on Manjhi’s various utterances that have left the party running for cover. JDU general secretary and chief spokesman K.C. Tyagi had on Friday issued an advisory to Manjhi, asking him to exercise restraint while talking in public.
In response, Manjhi openly defied Tyagi, saying he would “speak what comes to my mind”. “I am wiser than those who advise me,” the chief minister said yesterday.
Asked what he thought about Manjhi’s dare to the party leadership, Nitish today didn’t avoid the question, a clear indication that he accepted the crisis in the party.
“Hum is vishay par 29 tarikh ke baad baat karenge (I will speak on the issue after November 29),” Nitish, the ideologue-in-chief of the JDU who had catapulted Manjhi to the top post in May, said today before leaving for Sheikhpura and Nawada on his Sampark Yatra. The yatra ends on November 29.
Insiders interpreted Nitish’s words as indicative of two broader issues: First, the party leadership has admitted there is a crisis and second, corrective measures had to be taken.
However, even if it decides to crack the whip on Manjhi, the JDU leadership would first have to take RJD chief Lalu Prasad into confidence, estimate how many MLAs will actually side with Manjhi in case of a standoff and last but not the least, select a person as replacement who will be more “reliable” than Manjhi.
Nitish’s statement on Manjhi was preceded by a long session between him, JDU national president Sharad Yadav, Bihar unit chief Bashishtha Narayan Singh and other senior party leaders over dinner on Sunday. Sources said the party brass discussed the “crisis” fuelled by Manjhi’s statement of defiance.
Soon after Nitish’s remark on Manjhi this morning, Sharad held parleys with several MLAs, and ministers in groups. “Sharadji was seeking the opinion of individual legislators and ministers on Manjhi,” said an MLA who met Sharad.
Manjhi sought to firm up his wicket and engaged himself in an interaction with legislators belonging to the grand alliance from Darbhanga commissionerate. The meeting, held at 1 Aney Marg, was “official” and ostensibly aimed at redressing the grievance of legislators in their constituencies.
“The chief minister was extremely quick to issue orders to address our grievances. He also directed the chief secretary and the DGP to issue a letter to all DMs and SPs to accord proper respect to legislators when they went to their offices and stand up to receive him,” said a legislator who was present at the meeting.
During the Nitish regime, a constant complaint by MLAs and MLCs was that the bureaucracy had been given a free run and that DMs and SPs “ignored” legislators. Manjhi has been much more “accommodating” towards legislators — agreeing to transfer officials of their choice.
“The meeting at the chief minister’s residence was aimed at wooing MLAs who are supporting the government. In case of a showdown there will be more MLAs sympathetic towards Manjhi,” said a JDU legislator. He, however, stressed that he had gone to 1 Aney Marg because the meeting was official. “When I have to decide if I have to choose between Nitish or Manjhi, I will take a call then,” he added.
Manjhi’s strong words, that he will continue to speak his mind, has come as music to the ears of the Opposition. “The crisis triggered off by Manhi is enough to pull down Nitish politically,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav.