NEW DELHI - The leader of India’s eastern Bihar state resigned from his post on Wednesday in a surprise move widely expected to strengthen Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grip on power.

Nitish Kumar, the popular chief minister of one of India’s most populous and impoverished states, told journalists that it had become “impossible” for him to run the government in an alliance with a regional party led by Lalu Prasad Yadav, a controversial populist.

“My resignation has been accepted. The governor has asked me to continue till other arrangements are made,” Kumar said.

Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the main opposition in the state and observers predict that it could now form the next Bihar government in an alliance with Kumar’s party.

Yadav - a former Bihar chief minister - was earlier banished from India’s lower house in 2013 after he was convicted of defrauding a scheme to help farmers.

Meanwhile, Indian police arrested the owner of a property in a building that collapsed in Mumbai on culpable homicide charges Wednesday as the death toll from the disaster rose to 17.

The arrest came as civic activists in India’s financial capital decried the latest deadly housing collapse, which shone a spotlight on poor construction standards in the Asian country.

“We have arrested Sunil Shitap and are questioning him regarding the alterations that led to the building collapse,” Deven Bharti, a joint commissioner of Mumbai police, told AFP.

Seventeen people, including a three-month-old baby, were crushed under a pile of rubble when the four-storey building in the northern suburb of Ghatkopar gave way on Tuesday morning.

Police suspect that renovation work being carried out by Shitap to a private hospital on the ground floor caused the building, which housed several families in small apartments, to collapse.

Bharti said Shitap had been booked under three offences, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder and causing grievous hurt by an act endangering the life or personal safety of others.

The death toll jumped to 17 on Wednesday after rescuers, using diggers to sift through the debris found several bodies during the night.

“Seventeen are dead and we have rescued 29 victims, eight of which have been admitted to hospital,” Sudhir Naik, a deputy commissioner for Mumbai’s civic administrative body, told AFP.

Rescue operations were winding down on Wednesday afternoon as officials started to give up hope of finding any more survivors.

Building collapses are common in India, especially during the monsoon season from late June to September.

Mumbai is particularly vulnerable with millions forced to live in cramped, ramshackle properties because of rising real estate prices and a lack of housing for the poor.

The city has been hit by several deadly building collapses in recent years, often caused by shoddy construction, poor quality materials or ageing buildings.

Activists say housing societies, private owners and builders often cut corners to save on costs. They also claim that corruption plays a part with officials sometimes knowingly certifying dilapidated buildings in return for money.