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RJD backs JD (U) govt

Smarting under a dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls, archrivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad closed ranks with the RJD on Thursday declaring its support for the Jitan Ram Manjhi-led JD(U) government, a day before it is to seek trust vote in the assembly.

RJD legislature party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui announced that the party has decided to support the government headed by Manjhi, a Mahadalit.

The state assembly has an effective strength of 237 after six MLAs — three from RJD, two from BJP and one from JD (U) — resigned. The ruling JD (U) has 117 MLAs, besides two independents who have been made cabinet ministers. Congress with four MLAs and CPI with one also support the government. The RJD has 21 MLAs and BJP 88. With RJD’s support, JD(U) has support of 145 members.

“They should support without any criticism and extend unanimous support because Nitish has set an unprecedented example,” said Manjhi who was chosen as chief minister after Nitish quit in the face of the JD (U)’s poll debacle. Nitish’s choice was seen as a masterstroke to insulate the JD(U)-led government from apparent danger, which looked a possibility after BJP’s impressive show in the state.

Soon after the results, speculation was rife in political circles that Lalu and Nitish may become friends again. A hint was dropped by JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav who, later, backed out of his statement. The confirmation came on Thursday from Lalu: “My party will extend unconditional outside support to the state government.”

Lalu said the BJP is just dreaming to grab power in Bihar, but that would not happen. “There is a need for unity among the secular and ‘Mandalite’ parties in Bihar and at national level, as indicated earlier by Sharad Yadav. It is the responsibility of the secular parties to put a united front in the present situation,” he said, referring to the decimation of non-BJP parties in the polls.

The sign of some kind of understanding between JD (U) and RJD was visible when the assembly Speaker on May 17 rescinded his order of granting separate bloc status to 13 of the RJD MLAs who had rebelled against the party. Three of them resigned as MLAs to support Nitish.

“I want to clarify that there is no deal between the two parties. We have decided that this government should not fall due to BJP manoeuvres. We wish this government completes its term, but we will continue our struggle on public issues,” he said.

Nitish Kumar could not be reached for his reaction, but sources close to the former CM quoted him as saying that the RJD was not approached for support and Lalu took the decision on his own. State JD(U) chief Bashistha Narain Singh said, “This is the decision of RJD and this should not be seen as any indication of political alliance.” Party’s national general secretary and Bihar minister Bhim Singh said RJD was compelled to support Manjhi government in view of challenge posed by the communal forces.

This is for the first time that RJD will support JD (U). In 1994, Nitish, then Lalu’s close confidant, had broken away and launched Samata Party. Since then the two products of the JP movement have been at war. While Nitish tied up with BJP — the alliance which broke in June last year — Lalu aligned with the Congress.

The BJP had earlier claimed that nearly 50 JD (U) MLAs were in touch with the party to cross over. But all JD (U) legislators attended the meetings that authorized Nitish to name his successor and resolved that the next assembly election would be fought under the leadership of the former CM, who would take over if the party returns to power.

The BJP leaders said they had not plans to form any alternative government and will not topple the Majhi government.

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