PATNA: HAM-S founder-president Jitan Ram Manjhi says he wants the Grand Alliance (GA) to allot his party at least 50 seats to contest in the 2020 assembly election. “The purpose is to ensure a respectful place for dalits in the society,” the former CM told Faryal Rumi. Excerpts:
Why did you quit NDA?
My party and I worked tirelessly for strengthening the NDA for three and a half years, but my supporters started abusing me as they felt the BJP is an anti-dalit party. I told the PM about the need for quota in judiciary and in promotions. But such pleas of mine fell on deaf ears.
Do you think the GA will give your party 50 assembly seats as demanded by you?
I never demanded 50 seats. What I said was that if my party wins these many seats, I can solve most of the problems facing the EBCs, minorities, SCs and STs. I no longer lust for any post; I now want to pay back to the society with whatever time and energy I am left with.
How do you see the growing proximity between your ex-allies Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan?
Neither Nitish nor Ram Vilas has done anything for welfare of dalits. They give hollow assurances of the kind that were earlier given by many PMs and CMs. Truth is, nobody ever cared for dalits in the 70 years since independence. And their condition will remain the same for the next 70 years if we do not take corrective steps now.
Will you support Nitish if he returns to GA?
Woh party badalte hai khas maksad se. Nitish nowadays switches sides to remain CM, but we have already chosen our leader. If he still wants to return to the GA, a call on him has to be taken by the GA leadership, not by me individually.
How do you see the recent communal clashes in Bihar?
The clashes were manufactured by the BJP and RSS. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was in Bihar for 10 days, and now people know what was the agenda of his visit. The regions that saw the ugly clashes have had people belonging to the two communities living peacefully for decades. The crowd that took part in processions were mostly outsiders.
If GA is voted back to power, what will your HAM-S as an alliance partner do for dalits?
We want reservation in judiciary and private sector as well; common schooling system; entrepreneurship status to agriculture and stipend for unemployed degree holders, among otehr things. It is also imperative to implement the Poona Pact signed by Mahatma Gandhi and B R Ambedkar in 1932. The essence of the pact was that dalit voters should be given a separate electoral list; that is, only dalit voters would cast votes in the constituencies reserved for dalits.
Do you support Tejashwi Prasad Yadav as the GA’s CM candidate in 2020 election?
I have already declared HAM-S supports Tejashwi as the GA leader.
You have been saying mostly dalits and downtrodden have been targeted under prohibition. Tejashwi now says the RJD, if voted to power, would implement prohibition more effectively…
I am not against prohibition per se, but the government needs to review it because it has miserably failed and become a tool to victimise only the poor and dalits. Of the 1.27 lakh people arrested for liquor offences, 78,000 were dalits.