In a major political development, former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi met sitting CM Nitish Kumar at the latter's official residence in Patna on Monday. Sources say that Manjhi had sought an appointment from Kumar to discuss development work related to his constituency and to enhance security guards for former Chief Ministers. In the 45-minute meeting, Manjhi also submitted an official letter in this regard, which was forwarded by the CM to his Secretary.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of Manjhi's recent outburst at Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Yadav; clearly hinting that something is cooking up between Nitish Kumar and Jitan Ram Manjhi. After the meeting when Republic TV asked Manjhi to comment on the matter, he declined.
Of late, Jitan Ram Manjhi has been praising the JDU chief and even counted him as one of the best Chief Minister Bihar ever had. Manjhi even suggested that Nitish Kumar should be brought back to the Mahagathbandhan, and he should be made the CM candidate, much to the displeasure of Lalu and his son Tejashwi.
In the 2015 assembly elections and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Manjhi failed to transfer the musahar vote to the NDA and Mahagathbandhan respectively.
After the severe drubbing in the last general elections, Lalu has realised that Manjhi doesn't have the potential to transfer votes, thereafter his bargaining power in seat-sharing for the 2020 assembly polls has diminished. That is one reason why despite several demands and threats, Lalu is not forming a coordination committee of Mahagathbandhan for polls scheduled later this year.
Attacks fellow ally RJD
Before meeting Nitish Kumar, Jitan Ram Manjhi while speaking to Republic TV, had slammed the RJD over its conduct in the grand alliance. The leader is particularly peeved at the behaviour of Bihar RJD president Jagdanad Singh who allegedly said that Lalu is the leader of Mahagathbandhan and his son Tejashwi is the CM candidate and those who do not agree to this "are free to leave the party".
"Four parties of the Mahagathbandhan other than RJD, have been demanding the formation of coordination committee but RJD has shown its reluctance. Tejashwi is the CM candidate of RJD and not of Mahagathbandhan. The CM candidate will be decided by the coordination committee," Manjhi said.
He also called on RJD not to play the role of big brother and function in a democratic way. "RJD betrayed Congress by not giving them one Rajya Sabha seat as promised during the Lok Sabha elections. RJD should not underestimate smaller parties like us. RJD was decimated to 22 seats in 2010 assembly elections, when Ramvilas Paswan was also with them. We will try to meet Lalu Ji and if no decision is taken by March-end, we will form a separate group and contest elections."
Manjhi-Nitish planning alliance?
76-year-old Jitan Ram Manjhi is at the fag end of his political career. Since Lalu is not giving him much importance, Manjhi has no other option but to fall back on his mentor Nitish Kumar, who made him CM in 2014. But according to the political grapevine, Nitish Kumar will not settle for an alliance with Manjhi but will prefer a merger of Manjhi's HAM party into JDU.
By having Manjhi on his side, Nitish Kumar will score two brownie points. First, he will have secured an additional three percent Dalit voters in his kitty. Second, he will be able to checkmate the overambitious Ramvilas Paswan and Chirag Paswan, who also belong to the Dalit community.
After a severe drubbing at the hands of Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Nitish Kumar had resigned as Chief Minister and appointed Manjhi at the post. In 2015, after growing resentment among JDU MLAs over Manjhi's style of functioning, Kumar removed him and reassumed the post.
(PTI photo for representation)