Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi today alleged that senior officials in the state’s bureaucracy continued to consume alcohol, despite a ban, and urged the Nitish Kumar government to review its prohibition policy which, he claimed, was targeting mostly the poor.
The Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) president said this while addressing a dharna staged here by the party to highlight the plight of Dalits in the state. The HAM is a constituent in the NDA, which is ruling in Bihar as well as at the Centre.
Manjhi’s critical comment on prohibition, a pet issue of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, is bound to provide an opportunity to the opposition to attack the ruling coalition.
“I remember, when I was a child, my mother used to offer bottles of liquor to god as part of the puja. As per the existing prohibition law, she would have been sentenced to 10 years in prison,” Manjhi said.
Stating that he was always of the view that prohibition should not be imposed in such a manner, he said, “Some people may need alcohol as a medicine. If Nitish wants to act against those violating the ban on alcohol, he should start from senior officers…commissioners and principal secretaries.”
“Why are only poor labourers made to undergo breath analyser tests? Put these senior officers through the same and Nitish will come to know that at least half of them have been enjoying their drinks, despite the ban,” Manjhi alleged.
The HAM leader, who was earlier with the JD(U), became the chief minister in 2014 after Kumar resigned taking moral responsibility for the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls that year.
The relationships between Kumar and Manjhi soured when the latter refused to step down at the instance of the former less than a year later. Manjhi, however, resigned as chief minister after being expelled from the JD(U). Subsequently, Kumar returned as the chief minister of the state.
The Mahadalit leader went on to form the HAM and fought the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls as a part of the BJP-led NDA, which was defeated by the Grand Alliance, comprising the JD (U), RJD and Congress.
In July this year, Kumar quit the Grand Alliance and went back to the NDA. However, Manjhi, who is the sole MLA of his party in the state, has been sulking over the HAM’s non-representation in the new Bihar government.