Jitan Ram Manjhi
Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.IANS

Declaring the legislature meeting called by Janata Dal-U (JD-U) party President Sharad Yadav on 7 February "unauthorised," Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has instead called for a meeting of legislators on 20 February.

The development comes amid speculation that the party is contemplating a change of guard by replacing Manjhi with former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The 20 Feburary meeting will be held at Manjhi's official residence at 7 pm, according to a PTI report.

"The right to call Legislature Party meeting rests with leader of the Legislature party (Chief Minister). The notice of the meeting called on February 7 is not an authorised one," an assertive Manjhi said in a statement issued Thursday night.

The proposal to replace Manjhi with Nitish Kumar ahead of the crucial assembly polls this year has led to many twists in the state's politics in the last few weeks.

Manjhi, who has apparently revolted against the proposal, has the backing of majority of JD-U leaders and an NDA ally. 

Along with party members, Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan, who is also chief of Lok Janshakti Party –  an ally of the NDA  – has extended support to Manjhi, saying "no power can remove Manjhi," The Indian Express reported.

While the NDA has backed Manjhi's decision to not succumb to his party's eforts to oust him, the Janata Parivar is supporting Nitish Kumar's comeback. 

Sharad Yadav is said to have met Manjhi and Kumar separately on Thursday over the leadership change issue, during which Manjhi expressed his disapproval, despite being offered a "respectable position". JD(U)'s national spokesperson KC Tyagi admitted that a meeting took place.

"I am not aware of what transpired during Sharad Yadav's conversation with Nitish Kumar and Jitan Ram Manjhi, but it is true that Nitish alone is the face of development in the party. Besides, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has supported Nitish and expressed the desire for his return as CM," Tyagi said.

However, Sharad Yadav said the leadership issue was not discussed. "There is no truth in the perception that the meeting was held for removal of Manjhi. This is just a routine meeting," Hindustan Times quoted Yadav as saying.

However, the JD-U's Bihar unit president Basistha Narayan Singh has said that Manjhi's decision to call for a legislators' meeting is "wrong." On 6 February, he said, "Picture will be clear by tomorrow...there is no relevance of Legislature Party meeting called on February 20."