Bihar gets a new CM

Refusing to go back on his decision to quit, Nitish Kumar anointed 68 year-old Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Musahar Dalit from the most backward sections of the Scheduled Castes, as the new chief minister of Bihar. Manjhi will be sworn in with his cabinet on Tuesday after governor DY Patil invited him to form the government.
Manjhi, who was minister for SC/ST welfare in the Nitish government, will be the first CM from the Musahar community, with lowest levels of education in the state at 10%. There have been two previous Dalit CMs of Bihar: Bhola Paswan Shastri (thrice between 1967 and 71) and Ram Sundar Das (1979-80), but none as extremely “backward” as Manjhi.
For Kumar, there could be a number of politically exigent reasons to name a Mahadalit as CM, the most important being such a government would seem topple-proof. For its entire belligerence against the JD(U), the BJP would be extremely cautious about destabilizing a Dalit-led government in a state with 16% Dalit population. Also, the move would help Kumar undercut LJP boss Ramvilas Paswan’s Dalit base to some extent, and prevent the drift of Dalit votes to the BJP, as witnessed in the Lok Sabha elections.
Manjhi is a graduate from Magadh University and represents Makhdumpur in Jehanabad. He fought last month’s elections from Gaya and finished third fetching 1.31 lakh votes behind RJD’s Ramji Manjhi and BJP’s Hari Manjhi who won by 3.26 lakh votes.
Kumar was accompanied by JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and state chief Bashistha Narain Singh for his meeting with the governor, with Kumar telling Patil that Manjhi has a list of 116 JD(U) MLAs besides letters of support from one CPI and two independents. The strength of the as sembly is 239, he said, adding Manjhi has experience in party as well as government.
Earlier, the legislature party meeting authorized Kumar to nominate the new CM but also resolved that the party would contest the 2015 assembly election under Kumar's leadership.
Addressing his supporters, Kumar said, “My life has been full of struggles. I am ready to serve the people again provided the JD (U) gets the mandate.“
He also belittled BJP leaders' claim that 50 JD(U) MLAs were in contact with them. “ After I quit, they had an opportunity to form the government, but they didn't. It proves they were lying,“ he said.

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