Former chief minister Jitam Ram Manjhi raised the issue of growing class divide, saying, "All poor, irrespective of caste are the same and have similar problems".
He said, "The poor, more importantly, are not confined to scheduled castes and tribes alone. There are poor in forwards, backwards and minorities too - all of whom need help," Manjhi told the audience, while replying to a volley of questions at the Hindustan Samagam.
Asked if he was being used as a pawn to play the role of a vote splitter in the crucial Bihar elections by the BJP, Manjhi was quick to rebut the charge in his characteristic style to drive home.
"I champion the cause of the poor, which I was prevented from doing by chief minister Nitish Kumar," he said.
"I have sought the help of the BJP, as the combine of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad is dangerous for Bihar," he said, adding his decision was neither guided by any lust for the CM post, nor by the number of seats his newly-floated HAM-Secular would get. "It just is a question of stopping this duo from grabbing Bihar," he added.
Manjhi said both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad have buried their differences for the time being in quest of power.
"Both ruled for a quarter of a century, did nothing for the poor. Instead, they cheated them by raising the bogey of communalism. There never was a time when Bihar had no funds to be used for the welfare of the poor; but it was diverted," Manjhi said.
He said, "People have seen them both for far too long to forget what they stand for. They will not fall for their glib talk once again," he added.
Asked what prevented him from raising the issues concerning the poor when in power, as he was minister in all the three governments - Congress, RJD and NDA - in Bihar, Manjhi said, he tried to draw attention towards the real issues, but who was there to listen. "There is a huge gap between what Nitish Kumar speaks and what avails on the ground," he added.
The former CM also had praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his 'cleanliness campaign' to back his decision to align with the BJP in the forthcoming assembly elections.
"All apprehensions about communalism or contentious issues like Article 370, common civil code etc. have been proved wrong. The Prime Minister has put them aside while focusing solely on development. He has avoided controversies to move ahead. These apprehensions are spread deliberately to reap the benefit of insecurity created in the minds of the masses," he added.
On what he could secure in lieu of support to the BJP and if he had any target of the number of seats HAM-S would like to contest, Manjhi said, his only concern was to rid the state of the misrule of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar over 25 years.
"My agenda will remain my government's 34 poor-centric decisions taken at the fag end of my brief stint as CM. The Nitish-Lalu combine has emerged as a bigger evil," he added.
Manjhi was unfazed about the reports of discomfort among NDA constituents like Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) over his induction as an NDA ally.
"They have their alliance and I do not pay much attention to what they say. About their issues with us, only they can answer better. I think well of everyone. Whatever the NDA decides collectively is what will happen. We will all sit together and talk to resolve," he added.