Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi met prime minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday, further fuelling speculation on a possible tie-up with the BJP when he said he would be with a formation that was opposed to incumbent Nitish Kumar post-assembly polls.
Parrying queries over any pre-poll alliance, he told reporters that he would partner with a formation which did not include Nitish Kumar, his former mentor and now a bitter critic. Manjhi has launched his own outfit Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), after an unceremonious exit from the post of chief minister and the JD(U) on January 20 last.
Asked about RJD leader Lalu Prasad’s overtures to him to join a grand anti-BJP alliance, which is likely to include Kumar, he said a tie-up between Prasad and Kumar was ‘unlikely to work’ as RJD voters would not support Kumar while the JD(U) leader had a small voter base.
“If there is a need to ally with any party following the election, I will go with a formation which does not include Nitish Kumar,” he said. He claimed he met Modi to raise the issue of farmers’ plight in Bihar and demanded a CBI inquiry into alleged irregularities in paddy procurement.
Manjhi, a Mahadalit, is being eyed by the BJP-led NDA as well as Prasad as their new ally and leader of the Mahadalit community with potential of tilting the scale in favour of whichever major formation he chooses to align with. Many believe that his populist policies, when he was the chief minister, besides his sacking from the hot seat by the JD(U), have generated some sympathy for him in his community even though he remains an untested commodity in the politically crucial state.
Prasad had recently proposed that Manjhi be included in the grand alliance against the BJP, inviting sharp response from Kumar. Meanwhile, with Manjhi meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “game plan of the BJP” stood exposed.
“Manjhi has been acting as ‘Mukhauta’ (mask) of the BJP from the beginning of his tenure as CM. His meeting with the
PM has exposed the BJP’s game plan of creating rift in the JD(U) through him,” Bihar Congress president Ashok Choudhary said. The PCC chief wondered why Modi was playing with Manjhi from “behind the curtains”.
“Regular meetings of Manjhi with the PM and BJP leaders had exposed the saffron party’s political plot in Bihar to create a rift in the JD(U),” he said. The JD(U) also reacted bitterly to the Manjhi-PM meeting, with its state spokesman Rajiv Ranjan saying, “This indicates that an unethical alliance between Manjhi and the BJP is being formalised.”
(with inputs from agencies)