September 19, 2018

Ambitious Jitan Ram Manjhi tests NDA unity

Patna: The NDA in Bihar seems to have run into rough weather with an ambitious ally flexing muscles and threatening to contest alone if its demand for allotting almost a fifth of the 243 seats in the next Assembly elections is not met.

Observers claim that the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and other smaller parties have started demanding a bigger seat share on sensing that the BJP has started losing its grip on stronghold states like Rajasthan.

The latest to put the ruling BJP-JD (U) in trouble is former chief minister and HAM president Jitan Ram Manjhi who has demanded over 50 seats to field his party’s candidates in the 2020 Assembly elections.

Sources claim that his demands for seats may go up as HAM leaders have been hinting at fielding around 100 candidates.

“My party wants to contest on at least 50 seats for the upliftment of minorities and backward. I am also in favour of two deputy chief ministers – one from the minority community and a dalit,” HAM president Jitan Ram Manjhi said.

Stirring up the political scene, he said, “If political parties don’t support me, we can also contest the next Assembly elections on our own.”

Mr Manjhi’s demand came in the backdrop of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief and Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s human chain to spread awareness about the need for improving the education system in Bihar.

The key NDA partners BJP and JD(U) had stayed away from the human chain but the Opposition RJD extended support to Mr Kushwaha. The political event had led to a heated war of words between the RLSP and the JD(U).

Peeved by the statement made by the JD(U), senior RLSP leader Nagmani hinted at leaving the alliance. He said that “no government can be formed in Bihar without the support of RLSP”.

The HAM and the RLSP are prominent NDA constituents but are not a part of the state government. Opposition leaders have been claiming that these parties have been feeling uncomfortable ever since the JD(U) joined hands with the BJP and formed a government in Bihar.

Observers also link the so-called discomfort of some smaller NDA constituents to the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD’s renewed bid to woo NDA allies like Mr Manjhi and Mr Kushwaha. They claimed that RJD leaders who are banking heavily on the Muslim-Yadav combination floated by Lalu Yadav in the 1990s have also been targeting Koeris and Mahadalits.

“The BJP allies are not comfortable in the NDA anymore. Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi are in talks with senior leaders of our party and they may switch sides soon,” RJD national vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told reporters in Patna recently.

JD(U) insiders said that “the leadership has taken serious cognizance of demands and statements being made by leaders like Mr Manjhi and Mr Kushwaha. Decisions on the issue will be taken at the right time”.

The BJP has blamed the Opposition parties for trying to create a split in the NDA in Bihar and calls the allies’ demands for more seats a pressure tactic.

“The Opposition parties have been trying to create a rift for their own political gains but the NDA is intact. Lalu Prasad Yadav is serving a jail term and investigating agencies have filed a number of corruption cases against his family members also so there is no ground left for any party to join hands with them. As far as seat distribution is concerned it will be decided by top leadership at the right time,” BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel told this newspaper.

According to the observers, any decision to leave the alliance by Mr Manjhi and Mr Kushwaha may cause a major reduction in BJP’s support base in Bihar.

Courtesy: The Asian Age

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