Five ministers skip Nitish’s meeting

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Fissures within the ranks of the Janata Dal (U) leadership grew deeper on Thursday with five of the 14 ministers remaining absent from the Bihar cabinet meeting called by chief minister Nitish Kumar after a gap of over two-and-half months following the poll campaign. Sources said that five out of 14 ministers were not present in the cabinet meeting. Among the absentees were Vijendra Yadav, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Narendra Singh, Shahid Ali Khan and Lessi Singh.

Vijendra Yadav and Narendra Narayan Yadav are considered close to party president Sharad Yadav whose remarks on the CM during campaigning had provided opportunity to the opposition to claim that everything was not well within the party. Narendra Singh’s occasional comments during campaign had also highlighted his disenchantment.

Though officially the cabinet meeting was said to be a routine affair, its timing, a day before declaration of results, triggered interest. The exit polls have predicted poor performance of the ruling JD(U) in the 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar.

The projections have given wing to speculations that days of Nitish Kumar government in Bihar are numbered. Kumar’s friend-turned foe BJP, during the poll, had claimed that 50 JD(U) MLAs disappointed with the CM were in touch with them and were helping BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.

Former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi’s claim had caused speculation that a win for the BJP under Narendra Modi would spell trouble for the Nitish Kumar government. A senior leader Ashwani Choubey, who himself is in fray from Buxar, had specified 21 May as the date when the Kumar government would collapse.

Rubbishing all such theories, social welfare minister Jeetan Ram Manjhi told reporters outside the CM residence that ‘there is no danger to the government.’

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