Days after quitting the grand alliance of opposition parties, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) president Jitan Ram Manjhi on Thursday met Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar at the latter’s residence in Patna. The meeting has set off speculation that Manjhi was set to join the NDA. The NDA in Bihar comprises BJP, JD(U) and LJP. The LJP, however, has no representation in Nitish’s Cabinet.
Manjhi had on August 20 ended his 30 months of association with the grand alliance led by RJD.
He, however, denied having any political deliberations with Nitish Kumar during the meet. He said that the two discussed only local issues.
“Political talks have not yet taken place, they are likely to be held soon. Today’s talks with Kumar were on local issues,” Manjhi told reporters after emerging from CM Kumar’s residence.
Significantly, Manjhi had recently joined one of the virtual inauguration events of the Chief Minister. Kumar in his speech welcomed Manjhi and thanked him for supporting the government’s policies.
Manjhi, once seen as Nitish Kumar’s ‘Man Friday’, was handpicked to succeed him after he resigned from the CM’s chair in May 2014 owning moral responsibility for the debacle in the general elections. Manjhi was expelled from the JD(U) in February 2015 after he declined to vacate the CM’s office to accommodate Nitish.
Manjhi then floated his own political party Hindustani Awami Morcha (Secular) and sided with Nitish’s rival Bharatiya Janata Party. He contested the Assembly elections in an alliance with the BJP, LJP and RLSP. As per the seat sharing agreement, Manjhi contested the election from 20 seats but won just one seat. Manjhi was the lone member from his party to win in the elections.
In February 2018, Manjhi quit the NDA and joined the Grand Alliance of the opposition parties. By that time, Nitish had returned to the NDA fold.
Manjhi was lately reported to be unhappy over RJD’s behaviour and projecting Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav as the CM candidate. He was the first grand alliance leader who had openly disapproved of Tejashwi’s leadership after the grand alliance’s poor show in the May 2019 Lok Sabha elections and pressed for a change. He had issued an ultimatum to the grand alliance constituents to fulfil his demands, failing which he will be free to take a call on his continuance in the alliance.
When reporters asked Manjhi about the seats being offered to him by the JD(U), he replied, “I will talk to you on August 30” and made it clear that his party was not going to merge with any other political outfit.
Manjhi is a Mahadalit and has a strong base among the backward communities in the state. According to reports, JD(U) wants to project him as a Dalit face of the party after the exit of Shyam Rajak who has now joined the RJD. Mahadalits and Dalits comprise nearly 16% of Bihar’s 10 crore population.
Meanwhile, reports say that the HAM wants to contest 15-20 seats with the majority of them falling in the Magadh region in the southern part. But the Janata Dal (United) is willing to offer 10-12 seats.
The grand alliance in Bihar now comprises RJD, Congress, RLSP led by Upendra Kushwaha and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) led by Mukesh Sahani.