Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar resigned Saturday, taking moral responsibility for the rout of his Janata Dal-United in the state in the general elections, even as party legislators reiterated their support and asserted they would persuade him to continue.
Governor D.Y. Patil late Saturday accepted the resignation.
After Nitish Kumar made the announcement, most of JD-U legislators announced that they would persuade him to change his mind for sake of the state's development while hundreds of party leaders and workers flocked to the party office to express their solidarity. Incidentally the same party office was deserted Friday after the results came out.
"I led the party's campaign. I take moral responsibility for the election result," a visibly despondent Nitish Kumar said at press conference after submitting his resignation.
The JD-U won only two of the state's 40 Lok Sabha seats - as against 20 seats 2009, when it was in alliance with the BJP, with which it parted ways last year after a 17-year-long alliance.
Nitish Kumar made it clear that he has not recommended the dissolution of the assembly, while a meeting of the legislature party has been scheduled for Sunday.
"We did not get the expected support...(and) there is no doubt that the mandate is for the BJP," said Nitish Kumar, who has been in the saddle since Nov 24, 2005, and won a second term in the 2010 assembly elections.
He added that he has not seen this kind of polarisation in Indian politics.
Bihar minister Vijay Choudhary said that everything will be decided in the meeting Sunday.
"All of us are with Nitish Kumar. It is a rumour that some JD-U legislators are unhappy and likely to desert," he said.
JD-U legislator Gajanand Shahi alias Munna Shahi said that there was no chance of any split in the party.
Another JD-U legislator Izhar Ahmad said: "We will not accept his resignation in the JD-U legislature party meeting Sunday."
Another legislator, Anant Kumar Singh said Nitish Kumar is a popular leader and if there is a requirement, the party will go to people for a fresh mandate. "At present we are trying to convince Nitish Kumar not to resign," he said.
Nitish Kumar's arch rival, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad told media persons that his party will keep watch on developments. "I know that the Nitish Kumar government has numbers with it as he is having simple majority," said Lalu Prasad, whose party was also decimated in the polls.
The BJP however described the resignation as a political stunt.
"There is nothing new in it, Nitish Kumar is habitual of resigning. He had resigned when a rail accident took place during his tenure as union railway minister and later withdrew it," tweeted former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who had called for Nitish Kumar's resignation after the poll results Friday.
Leader of the opposition Nand Kishore Yadav termed it a "natak (drama)" as part of Nitish Kumar's strategy "to end a revolt-like situation among his party legislators".
People expressed shock over the development.
"It is going to be a big setback for Bihar, which is on the development track under Nitish Kumar. I never expected it," said businessman Ashok Kumar Singh.
Anant Kumar, a student, said: "I think he was a victim of caste and communal polarisation in polls as he was only talking about development and asking people to support him for his work."
Since the JD-U fared poorly in the Lok Sabha election, there had been intense speculation the Nitish Kumar government may fall.
Another setback was that then JD-U bagged only one of five assembly seats where by-polls were held along with the Lok Sabha polls. The RJD bagged three seats and the BJP took one.
In the 243-member assembly, the JD-U has 118 legislators while the BJP has got 91. RJD is placed third with 22 lawmakers, Congress has four and others are 8.