Jitan Ram Manjhi faces 3-way fight for Imamganj
Former chief minister of Bihar and one of the tallest Dalit leaders in the state, Jitan Ram Manjhi, is facing a tricky three-cornered contest in his home seat of Imamganj, which he won by a margin of roughly 30,000 votes in 2015.
At stake, experts claim, is not only his place in the legislative assembly -- of which he has been a member for four decades -- but also his stature in the National Democratic Alliance where he is the senior-most Dalit face after the death of former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
Pitted against Manjhi from the reserved assembly segment bordering Jharkhand is former speaker of Bihar assembly, Uday Narayan Choudhary, who used to a be a staunch loyalist of chief minister Nitish Kumar before falling out with him in 2017 after the latter decided to align with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Choudhary, who won the seat four times before losing to Manjhi in 2015, has been fielded by the Rashtriya Janata Dal. The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has fielded Shobha Sinha, whose father-in-law Ramswaroop Paswan was a former MLA from Imamganj.
Manjhi, whose caste of marginalised Musahars number around 55,000 of the 295,605-strong electorate, is hoping to unite the Dalit vote and hive off some support from other communities due to his stature.
“Manjhi carries the potential of swaying at least 6-7% of Dalit votes who form nearly 16% of the population. Manjhi is the first leader to unite them under one Dalit umbrella. A swing of 5-6% votes can be decisive in the current assembly elections,” said a senior functionary of the Janata Dal (United), which is an ally of Manjhi’s Hindustani Awami Dal (Secular).
With the nomination of Choudhary, RJD is trying to break its streak in a seat it has never won since 2000. Choudhary couldn’t be reached for a comment, despite several attempts.
Choudhary and Manjhi are fierce political rivals and their relationship deteriorated in August 2014, when the former scuttled an attempt by the latter to cause a split in the JD(U).
Manjhi, who was then CM was trying to garner support and outmaneuver Kumar, who wanted the Dalit leader to step down just months after elevating him to the position.
Choudhary disqualified eight MLAs to quash the brewing rebellion within the JD(U). In response, before resigning as CM, Manjhi recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into a case allegedly linked to the former speaker.
In his campaign, Choudhary is hoping to win the support of the Muslims and Yadavs, who make up around 70,000 votes, along with a section of the Dalit votes.
Shobha Sinha, a BJP turncoat is banking on the anti-Nitish Kumar sentiments to make a dent into Manjhi and Choudhary’s vote bank.
Political analysts said that Manjhi faces a tough task this time in Gaya. “No doubt several development schemes were initiated here, but huge anti-incumbency is also working on the ground,” said Gyanendra Yadav, a professor of Sociology at College of Commerce, Patna.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- She will, however, continue to be treated in Bengaluru as she was hospitalised last week for a severe Covid-19 infection
- The legislator’s actions ahead of the crucial assembly elections immediately drew the ire of the ruling party which issued him a showcause notice.
- The RSS is of the view that the slogan hailing Lord Ram should not have been shouted at a government event organised to pay homage to Netaji.
- In a statement issued on Monday, the veterans said the armed forces can be “casually undermined by irresponsible leaders” only at a grave to national security.