In a fit of rage, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday said that his "stupidity" had led his former protégé Jitan Ram Manjhi to occupy the highest seat of power in the state.
Kumar made the remark in the assembly when Manjhi, who formed his own party Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and is now with the opposition BJP-led NDA, rose to express doubts over the state government's caste survey.
"He keeps saying he too has been a chief minister. He became a chief minister because of my stupidity. Does he have any sense (ye bolta hai ki hum Mukhyamantri the. Meri moorkhta ki vajah se mukhyamantri bana. Isko koi sense hai)", Kumar screamed, causing commotion in the House.
Kumar's cabinet colleagues were seen tugging at his kurta, urging him to calm down and take his seat, though the septuagenarian did not relent until he had given Manjhi a mouthful.
He also said "journalists should also know the complete facts. They keep giving a lot of publicity to this man".
BJP members, who rose in protest, were told by Kumar, "this man has always been wanting to remain in your company. When I dumped you a year ago, I had asked him to stay put, but he insisted that he wanted to come with me. Now he has run away. He wants to become a governor. Please oblige him".
The chief minister took his seat only after Speaker Awadh Bihari Chaudhary told him, "after all, he had become the chief minister only because of your benediction (kripa)".
The House was adjourned for the day soon afterwards, having finished the day's business which included unanimously passed bills that raised quotas for SCs, STs, EBCs and OBCs from 50 per cent to 65 per cent, taking the overall reservation in the state to 75 per cent including 10 per cent of economically weaker sections quota which the Centre introduced a few years ago and was implemented in the state.
Talking to reporters outside the House later, Manjhi said, "I will complain against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to the governor and Union home minister. I will demand his dismissal and clamping of President's Rule in the state. Only a couple of days ago he had brought shame to the state through his remarks about women. His repeated misconduct shows he is no more in a sound state of mind and cannot be entrusted to hold such an important post".
As Manjhi spoke, he was flanked on both sides by BJP MLAs, who expressed solidarity with the HAM chief and accused Kumar of having "insulted a Dalit".
Notably, Manjhi had become the chief minister in May 2014, when Kumar had stepped down owning moral responsibility for the JD(U)'s drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls.
However, less than a year later, Manjhi stepped down, faced with accusations of trying to engineer a split in the JD(U), which led to Kumar's return as the chief minister.
Manjhi subsequently floated HAM and contested the 2015 assembly polls as a member of the NDA. A few months after Kumar's return to the BJP-led coalition in 2017, Manjhi hopped over to the Mahagathbandhan, which was then left with only the RJD and the Congress.
Manjhi returned to the NDA in 2020 and his party was given seats to contest from the JD(U)'s quota while his son Santosh Suman got a ministerial berth.
Last year, when Kumar did yet another volte face, Manjhi followed suit which helped his son retain his ministership.
However, in June this year, Suman resigned as minister and Manjhi announced his exit from the Mahagathbandhan, alleging that Kumar was putting pressure on him to merge HAM with JD(U).