Bihar CM Jeetan Ram Manjhi on Monday said that irrespective of whether he remains the CM or not, he would “continue to speak the truth” and added that he cannot be “dictated terms” in carrying out his duties. He also said there was nothing wrong in a Scheduled Caste leader talking about the welfare of lower castes and added that he had no plans to join the BJP.
In an exclusive interview to The Indian Express, Manjhi said he had been able to connect to the Mahadalits and can’t help the “pain it brings to some other leaders”. He added that speaking up for Dalits was in the party’s interests as they formed a support base of the JD(U).
“I do not know what Nitishji meant by saying he would talk about me after November 29. Maybe he wanted to ward off the media or would talk about other things. There is no crisis in the party and he has not called me yet (to convey any displeasure)”.
Asked if he would put in his papers if asked by Nitish, he said: “It is an imaginary question.”
The Bihar CM, who was recently asked by the party to “mind his tongue”, said he did not regret any of his remarks. “I will not take advice from anyone other than Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar,” he said.
Asked if the BJP had been provoking him to change sides, Manjhi said: “I am with the JD(U) and will remain in the JD(U). He clarified that his statement on lending support to Narendra Modi if Bihar is given special status was “misinterpreted”. “What I meant was that I would thank Modiji”.
Manjhi also said he supported the party resolution to contest the assembly elections under Nitish. “But I do not know who the party will choose as the CM nominee”.
When asked if he saw Nitish as the leader of Grand Alliance in Bihar, he said he did not know if he would play a role in choosing the leader. “If my opinion is sought, I will give it. Let it be a secret for now”.
Regarding his relationship with Lalu Prasad, who has not criticised his actions even as his own party leaders rile him, Manjhi said the RJD chief has praised his work. “I enjoy his confidence and keep talking to him”.
On questions over his “ultra Dalit politics”, Manjhi said he did not know what the term meant. “I am a Scheduled Caste leader and will naturally speak for them,” he said.
Asked if what he says has Nitish Kumar’s sanction, the Bihar CM said: “We have mutual understanding and call each other when there is any misgiving.”
Manjhi also explained his claim of drawing a “bigger line of development than Nitish”. “I meant that though I cannot match Nitish Kumar, I did some some work he did not do despite my requests as SC/ST welfare minister. Please do not draw comparisons,” he added.