In yet another jolt to Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), Devendra Prasad Yadav, who quit on Tuesday, has decided to revive his own party with the help of rebels and carve out a third front.
The going has not been easy for Manjhi's party after the seat-sharing pact for the Bihar assembly polls were announced on Monday with some within the party saying it has come as a 'letdown' to ticket aspirants.
"I was ready for some honourable agreement, but I was not ready for Manjhi's abject surrender. We had decided at the core committee that HAM should get at least 50 seats keeping in view the 16% vote base with it," said Yadav.
Yadav, who was one of HAM's core committee members, said he already has a registered Samajwadi Janata Dal-Democratic party and could obtain a symbol in four to five days.
"We will maintain equidistance from the BJP-led NDA and the grand alliance of JD-U, RJD and Congress. The third front of SP, NCP and other like-minded parties could be a strong alternative," he added.
Yadav said more leaders from HAM will leave the party in the days to come, as they are disenchanted with the way the party chose to meekly surrender.
"Those with 6% vote share have got 40 seats and HAM has been left with just 20. I am surprised how Manjhi agreed to it. He had a golden opportunity to claim his rightful share, but he voluntarily accepted it by calling a special core committee meeting minus me. In fact, the meeting should have been held in Patna only," he added.
Yadav, however, said he had put up no demand for seats, as he was competent enough to get his ticket 'directly from anyone'.
"I was talking about workers who had joined HAM with great hope. Now, just 20 plus five means the workers will have no place. I had hoped that Manjhi would stand up for the poor, who were rallying around him," he said.
HAM chief and former chief minister Manjhi, however, said it was Yadav's decision and there was not much he could do about it.
"He may have had some aspirations, which is unfulfiled. It is his decision but the fact is that seat sharing formula has been agreed upon and HAM has got 20 seats, the chapter is closed. Alliance has certain compulsions and requires certain adjustments," said the Mahadalit leader.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had on Monday announced a seat-sharing pact with allies for the Bihar polls following last-minute tweaks to keep Manjhi happy.
The BJP said it will contest 160 of the 243 assembly seats and gave Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party 40 seats, Union minister Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) 23, and HAM 20. A few other HAM members may contest on the BJP's symbol.
The saffron party had increased Manjhi's share by five seats after his hard-nosed bargaining frustrated negotiators and delayed the arrangement by nearly a week.
The arrangement ensures Manjhi – who demanded a share equal to that of Paswan – gets "some" extra seats. The 70-year-old Manjhi had demanded seats equal to the LJP's share, citing his supposed higher stature among the Mahadalits, an extremely backward group of castes that comprises 10% of the state's population and may swing a close election.
After the seat-sharing pact was announced Manjhi had told HT, "It was not a question of 'my happiness'. The larger issue is to prevent Bihar from slipping into 'jungle raj."
Manjhi has now admitted he is finding it tough to accommodate all with just 20 seats.
"There is tremendous pressure. In fact, it would have required at least 50-60 seats, which is not the case, to keep all happy," he added.
When asked about the HAM's options, Manjhi said it would be decided at the NDA meeting.
Of the 13 sitting MLAs with HAM, there are a few like Nitish Mishra, Binay Bihari and Raju Kumar Singh who are likely to contest on BJP ticket, besides a couple more, though nothing is official right now. Besides, there are four MLCs in Narendra Singh, Mahachandra Singh, Bhim Singh and Samrat Choudhary who may wish to fight.
That leaves very few seats to new faces, even if some of the MLCs decide not to contest.
"It remains to be seen how many can be accommodated on BJP tickets," said a HAM leader.