PATNA: In poll-bound Bihar, the ruling NDA is headed for trouble as rift surfaces between two of its crucial allies – Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM).
Sources said that Jitan Ram Manjhi’s entry in the NDA fold and his announcement for unconditional support to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has irked LJP chief Chirag Paswan. A section in the LJP also feels that Manjhi has been inducted in the NDA at the insistence of Nitish Kumar but without consulting alliance partners.
LJP leaders said that the party has called a meeting on September 7 in New Delhi to discuss the state’s political scenario and Manjhi’s entry into the NDA fold. Reports suggest that the party may also discuss its relationship with JD(U) during the meeting.
"The September 7 meeting is crucial not only for our party but also for the NDA. We have been asked to be prepared for any eventuality," a source aware of the development said and also dropped hints that the top leadership of the party is not pleased with Jitan Ram Manjhi being inducted in the NDA.
When asked whether the LJP was planning to field candidates against the JD(U) he said, "There is no clarity on the issue yet. Party Chief Chirag Paswan is likely to discuss all these issues during the meeting on September 7".
Political experts feel that the conflict between LJP and HAM could be due to their Dalit vote bank in the state. LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan and HAM’s Jitan Ram Manjhi are considered prominent Dalit leaders in Bihar. Dalits make up for around 16 per cent of the total population in the state. Among Dalits, there is also an extremely marginalized section called Mahadalits.
Political observers are of the view that Jitan Ram Manjhi has a major stake in the Mushahar community, a sub-caste among Dalits in Bihar. The community has a population of around 40 Lakh and was classified among Mahadalits in 2007 by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Reacting on the reports regarding resentment in the LJP over his party’s entry into the NDA, HAM spokesperson Danish Rizwan told this newspaper, "Our only agenda is to extend support to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who has been working hard for the state’s development. We are not concerned with parties who are not happy with our entry in the NDA. Being an NDA partner, the LJP should not field its candidates against JD(U) in the state".