The BJP and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi were looking for a quid pro quo as they get ready to fight a common opponent, Nitish Kumar, in the assembly elections later this year.
He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, a Rajya Sabha member from Bihar, this week and the BJP has apparently sought his help to mobilise support from his Mahadalit community, which comprises about 12% of the state’s population.
“Manjhi is looking for support and resources from the BJP. But we are treading cautiously because he has yet to deliver on some promises made at the height of his tussle with Nitish Kumar,” a BJP leader said.
His meeting comes ahead of BJP chief Amit Shah’s rally in Patna on April 14, the birth anniversary of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar.
Manjhi has been cosying up to the BJP after he lost the chief minister’s post to his one-time mentor Kumar and got banished from the Janata Dal (United) as well in an ugly fight for power. The BJP and JD(U) were ruling allies until Kumar’s conflict with Prime Minister Modi split the two.
The assembly polls provide the perfect platform for both Manjhi and the BJP to extract revenge.
The BJP saw an opportunity in Manjhi to inflict damage on the Janata parivar — a proposed merger of erstwhile Janata Dal components such as JD(U) and Lalu Prasad’s RJD — by splitting its Mahadalit support base.
Still, the BJP remains wary of Manjhi. “We have learnt that he is also in touch with Lalu Prasad and the Congress. We would like to wait before taking a final call on our relationship with him,” a Bihar BJP leader said.
Moreover, RJD MP Pappu Yadav, who is opposed to the merger of his party with the JD(U), is believed to be luring Manjhi for an electoral understanding.