A day after the NDA’s defeat, BJP ally and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi identified the beef controversy and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on reservation as the “turning point” in the Bihar Assembly elections. He also blamed BJP chief Amit Shah’s firecrackers-in-Pakistan remark.
“The beef controversy and remarks about it from various quarters alienated the NDA’s vote base… Amit Shah’s unintended and casual reference to Pakistan bursting crackers in case of the NDA’s defeat was misinterpreted and blown out of proportion by rivals,” said Manjhi. His Hindustani Awami Morcha (Secular) managed to win only one of the 21 seats that it contested.
“What Mohan Bhagwat said about the need for a review of the reservation policy was right. I would agree to his suggestion, but he chose the wrong time to make this remark. Our opponents spread the word that the RSS was preparing to appoint an upper caste chief minister who would scrap reservation benefits,” said Manjhi.
“By the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarified the stand on reservation, it was too late,” he said, adding that the Grand Alliance had “succeeded in making it a vital electoral plank” against the NDA.
“After the reservation controversy, it was made out to be a fight between backward and forward castes, and opponents gave BJP the tag of an upper caste party. The EBCs and Dalits were misguided by Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, who are masters of such campaigns. The Grand Alliance had no electoral plank till they latched on to Bhagwat’s reservation remarks,” said Manjhi.
He added that Nitish also cashed in on the “Bihari versus Bahari” row.
Manjhi said he would remain in the NDA and work as an MLA, inside and outside the assembly. “I am heading a party. I will start campaigning from the panchayat level to spread the message about empowerment of Dalits. Losses and wins are part of the game. I am with the NDA and will speak up against Nitish when needed,” said Manjhi.