Manjhi Quits NDA over Seat Sharing; Joins RJD-led Grand Alliance

Jitan Ram Manjhi and Tejaswi Yadav at a press conference in Patna on Wednesday.

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Patna: Former Bihar Chief Minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, continuing to overestimate his political clout in the state as the voice of the Dalits, after months of drama, quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA coalition in Bihar and joined Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led Mahagathbandhan in the state.

Manjhi, after holding meetings with former Chief Minister Rabri Devi and her son and former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Tejaswi Yadav at their residence in Patna on Wednesday, announced his move to break away from the NDA and join the RJD-Congress-pro-Sharad faction coalition in Bihar otherwise known as Mahagathbandhan, or the Grand Alliance.

Manjhi, who has only one seat, his own, in the state Assembly, has carefully promoted himself as the leader of the Dalits and Mahadalits in Bihar because of his caste as he represents one of the poorest castes in the Mahadalit category. For past several months, he had been fuming over his second-class citizen treatment by the BJP and the NDA who, he says, have ignored his demand for more seats in the coalition.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back came when his demand for one seat in the upcoming specials Rajya Sabha poll in six constituencies in Bihar was ignored by the BJP. Earlier he had demanded to field his candidate from Jehanabad Assembly seat but that too was ignored by the NDA when the BJP asked Nitish Kumar to name his own candidate from that seat much to the chagrin of Manjhi.

Election for the Jehanabad Assembly seat is to be held on March 11 while the Rajya Sabha elections are to be held on March 23.

Emerging from the meeting with Tejaswi Yadav, Tej Pratap Yadav, and their mother Rabri Devi, the HAM leader told the press that he was set to join the Grand Alliance that is currently made up of the RJD, Congress, and the pro-Sharad group of the Janata Dal – U.

Welcoming Manjhi in the anti-NDA camp, the former Deputy Chief Minister and the younger son of Lalu Prasad Yadav said that the HAM leader was a man of principle who was a father-figure to him while also being an old friend of the family.

"Manjhi ji is a big Dalit leader and his working manner while he was the Chief Minister of Bihar was commendable. We are very pleased to have him in the alliance that is growing stronger by the day to teach a lesson to the communal forces in Bihar," Yadav said.

The RJD leader, however, balked when asked if the RJD had assured him a Rajya Sabha ticket from a constituency of his liking.

"These matters will be discussed when the time is appropriate," Yadav said refusing to give a definitive answer.

It may be recalled that Tejaswi Yadav also used to call Nitish Kumar 'chacha' (uncle) when the JD-U leader had decided to ditch the NDA and join hands with the RJD in 2013.

Meanwhile, BJP state President Nityanand Rai, reacting on Manjhi's departure, said that it would have no effect on the NDA as his presence barely meant anything for the alliance.

"While in NDA, Manjhi was always demanding. He did nothing to strengthen the coalition and his exit will have zero impact on the alliance," Rai said adding if the HAM leader thought that he would get any respect in the company of the Lalu family then he had much to learn about the RJD.

"There is only one God in the RJD and that is Lalu Prasad Yadav. He will regret his decision in the coming months," Rai said.

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