Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav is wooing Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) leader and former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi in order to bring a Mahadalit face on his side. However, Manjhi is not in a mood to oblige, at least for now. According to a senior HAM source, Manjhi’s party, which is a part of National Democratic Alliance (NDA), was offered a minister’s post and six posts in different boards and corporations, as part of the deal to switch sides, at the behest of Lalu. However, Manjhi is unlikely to desert NDA for the time being.
During a recent Iftar function in Patna, Manjhi sat between Lalu and Nitish Kumar, fuelling speculations. He also said if Nitish and Lalu can come together, why cannot others. “Whatever I am today is because of Nitish Kumar,” he said at the function.
However, according to sources, Manjhi’s remark was aimed at sending a strong message to the BJP leadership. This would help him bargain for a respectable position at the Centre with a ministerial berth, experts feel. According to a source, Manjhi is likely to meet BJP president Amit Shah next week in this regard. “Though HAM did not fare well in last year’s Assembly elections, Manjhi emerged as a towering Mahadlit leader. Ever since Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan broke alliance with RJD to join hands with the NDA, Lalu wanted a credible Dalit face on his side. Therefore, he is trying to bring him back to the Grand Alliance folder,” said a source.
The source further added: “It is in the interest of Lalu to bring a credible Dalit face into the Grand Alliance folder in order to cut Nitish Kumar to size. His ultimate goal is to establish his son Tejashwi Yadav, at present Bihar’s deputy Chief Minister, as the chief minister. This cannot happen as long as Nitish is strong.”
HAM joined the NDA in July 2015 and subsequently contested 21 seats in the Assembly elections. However, only Manjhi was able to win the election from Imamganj constituency. Nevertheless, he has emerged as a prominent Mahadalit face. Lalu’s idea is to form a social combination of Yadavs, Muslims and Dalit/Mahadalits. In that case, he will not require Kurmi votes, controlled by Nitish Kumar, to stay in power.
The source said that Manjhi understands that he is being “used” by Lalu and therefore, is treading very cautiously. Manjhi, once a loyalist of Nitish Kumar, turned rebel, when he refused to resign from the post of chief minister last year. Interestingly, it was Nitish Kumar who had recommended Manjhi’s name for the CM’s post after resigning in 2014 in the face of general election defeat.