There are no permanent friends or foes, as they say, in politics.
Five years after he walked out on JD-U’s Nitish Kumar on a bitter note and joined the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan, Bihar’s former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi is returning to National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead of the assembly elections in the state, due in October-November. He will formally return to NDA led by the incumbent Nitish Kumar on September 3. He had quit the Mahagathbandhan last month.
The return of the 75-year-old leader is considered to be a big boost to the NDA since he happens to be a formidable leader of the Mahadalit community, which accounts for about 15 per cent votes in the state. It is also deemed to be well-thought-out strategy on part of Nitish to neutralise the rebellious stand of NDA’s Chirag Paswan, the Lok Janshakti Party president and son of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who has been flexing his political muscle and targeting Nitish on several issues, including delay by the state government in recommending the CBI probe in the Sushant Singh Rajput case in recent months.
It more or less also compensates JD-U’s loss incurred after the exit of its Mahadalit leader Shyam Rajak. Rajak, a five-term MLA who was a cabinet minister in the Nitish government, recently resigned and joined the RJD. He accused the Nitish government of having done precious little to ameliorate the lot of the Mahadalits during his tenure. The Mahadalit votes have been crucial in successive polls in the state and every party tries to woo the leaders popular from the community in the run-up to every election.
Manjhi, for record, had been handpicked by Nitish to succeed him as the Chief minister after he quit in the wake of the disastrous defeat of JD-U in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Manjhi, a low-profile leader who was initially dismissed as a rubber stamp of Nitish, took oath in May 2014 and initially vowed to follow the directives of his leader. But he soon began to assert himself, taking several decisions which irked both Nitish and his party.
Eight months later, in February 2015, JD-U leadership finally asked him to resign to make way for Nitish, but he refused. In a resultant political turmoil, the Governor asked him to prove his majority in the House but he could not muster enough numbers despite BJP’s support. Finally, he resigned paving the way for Nitish to return to the Chief minister’s chair.
Manjhi then founded his own party, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and joined the NDA. He, however, joined forces with Lalu Prasad to join the Mahagathbandhan.
Now, while the JD-U leaders have welcomed Manjhi’s homecoming, the RJD has hit out at him, calling him a rank opportunist. Party spokesperson Mrityinjay Tiwari says that Manjhi had forgotten the humiliating treatment meted out to him by the JD-U in the past. He says that Manjhi will once again be humiliated and leave NDA.
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