Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi will contest from Imamganj, taking on Speaker of the outgoing assembly Uday Narayan Choudhary. This will be in addition to Manjhi’s traditional seat of Maqdumpur, from where he will continue to contest.
Manjhi’s candidature in Imamganj comes after the BJP conceded one more seat to his party, HAM(S), in view of “his stature” and desire to take on fellow Mahadalit leader Choudhary. The rivalry between Manjhi and Choudhary, who share the same political space in Gaya, is well-known.
It began when Manjhi was still in Nitish Kumar’s camp, with Nitish choosing Manjhi as chief minister rather than Choudhary. Choudhary lost out in the race apparently because of controversies he has been embroiled in. Their turf war reached flash point during the trust vote Manjhi faced in February after he rebelled against the JD(U). Manjhi accused Choudhary of being partisan in allotting seats to his 19 rebels and eventually resigned before facing the floor test. Manjhi then vowed not to “go to the assembly as long as Choudhary is Speaker”.
Uday Narayan Choudhary and Jitan Ram Manjhi had contested the last Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully from Gaya and Jamui respectively, as JD(U) nominees.
“The BJP kept in mind the high stature of our leader, who has decided to contest from Imamganj as well. We are happy with the BJP’s gesture,” HAM (S) spokesperson Danish Rizwan told The Indian Express. Asked if the second seat meant Manjhi was not confident of winning from Maqdumpur, Rizwan said it was because Manjhi wanted to take the Speaker on in his backyard.
The BJP too announced a list of candidates, its third, and with 11 names. A key inclusion is Abdur Rahman, only the second BJP Muslim candidate so far, as the candidate from Kochadaman of Kishanganj district. The BJP has given the Amarpur ticket, for which it had to bargain hard, to upper caste Rajput Mrinal Shekhar. HAM(S), meanwhile, has given four seats to Muslims, taking the overall count of NDA Muslim candidates to seven. The BJP and the LJP are yet to release their full lists while the RLSP has not released any.
HAM(S) has given five seats to Dalits, four to upper caste Bhumihars and two to Yadavs, apart from the four Muslims.
The BJP’s third list includes Satyendra Singh from Mohiuddinagar, Phula Devi from Govindpur, Kaushlendra Kumar from Nalanda, Ajay Kushwaha from Minapur, Kedar Gupta from Kudni, Ramsunder Yadav from Phulparas, Awadh Bihari Singh from Bahadurganj, Parmanand Mandal from Rupauli and Virendra Gope from Islampur.