The BJP has finally opened up on its stand and is going to support Jitan Ram Manjhi in the floor test tomorrow, though dilly-dallying on the issue has put BJP in a tight spot, irrespective of what the party strategists feel.
The effective strength in the 243 member Bihar assembly is 233 with 10 vacant seats that include eight MLAs barred from voting by the Patna High Court. Manjhi needs support of 117 MLAs to sail through. But, going by the reports (and not by his claims that he has the number), Manjhi’s count is not going beyond 104, 87 of the BJP, 12 of the JD(U) and 5 others. Nitish, on the other hand is claiming support of 130 MLAs, including the RJD, Congress and others.
Politics of 'no friends or foes' has no room for ethical practices. The one in position to squeeze in the maximum ground, even if by adopting unethical practices, goes about doing so openly.
And it is on open display again and Bihar is theatre this time.
So, Manjhi, the chief minister of Bihar, who was installed by Nitish Kumar post the Lok Sabha polls, is taking on Nitish Kumar to keep him from coming back. He is making tall promises, unabashedly populist and burdening to the state exchequer, to lure voters. He is making open offers to MLAs to make them ministers. He is openly attacking Nitish Kumar.
And so, Nitish Kumar, the Janata Dal (United) leader and the former chief minister, who resigned after taking moral responsibility of party's humiliating loss in the Lok Sabha polls, got comfortably the post of the 'Leader of Opposition' for his party today with the Bihar assembly Speaker being from his party, on his side.
Before it, Nitish had another political realization that Jitanram Manjhi, a leader with a controversial past, corruption and misappropriation taints and allegations and having no mass base out of his constituency, was doing irreversible damage to the state of Bihar. The realization dawned upon Nitish within only nine months of meticulously choosing Manjhi to run the state. Also, within nine months only, Nitish had a rethink of his ethical call to vacate the office as he tried to barge in the chief-ministerial office after Manjhi refused to accept his 'marching orders'. But Nitish's inner call was aborted mid-way by the High Court paving the way for the floor test.
And so, the Bhartiya Janata Party, the long-term partner of the JD(U) which took separate ways before the Lok Sabha polls after Nitish didn't accept Narendra Modi's projection as the prime-ministerial nominee of the National Democratic Alliance, courted Manjhi and propped up avenues and support for him to take on Nitish and the JD(U).
It can be said what could have been a smooth comeback for Nitish after the 'rethink realization' to lead his party in the assembly polls due in the last months of this year, has been made a political spectacle that has had the whole country glued.
So, we have Manjhi claiming and luring Mahadalits asking them to practice Gandhigiri come what may. He is making desperate pleas, statements and propositions to remain politically relevant. He has been camping in Delhi and Patna to request BJP to come to his aid.
We have Nitish Kumar serving ultimatum to the Bihar Governor and taking his MLAs to New Delhi to parade them before President Pranab Mukherjee. His spokespersons are on duty round the clock to take on Manjhi and BJP. He first claimed chief minster's chair but after the High Court intervention, settled with the LoP one, hoping to corner tomorrow what he has been eyeing.
We have BJP that has muddled the Nitish's comeback plan. The party that crafted and enjoyed the internal ramblings in the JD(U) was consistently in verbal war with the later. And is now crying hoarse and taking the legal route to reclaim its LoP position.
Another colour in all this is an MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, an ally of Nitish Kumar, who has taken a hostile line against the JD(U). He is supporting Manjhi not only vocally, but is also active in trying bringing in MLAs to his camp.
Interestingly, we have not heard much of Lalu Yadav all through this.
The clarity on what colour of this political kaleidoscope will prevail will emerge tomorrow.