A day after former chief minister and HAM(S) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi walked out of the NDA and joined the Grand Alliance, former Bihar Congress chief Ashok Kumar Choudhary joined the JD(U) in the presence of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Thursday. Choudhary was reportedly scheduled to join the JD(U) after Holi but sources said the joining was advanced to neutralise the Manjhi effect.
Ahead of the upcoming bypolls for the Lok Sabha seat of Araria and Assembly segments of Jehanabad and Bhabhua, there have been signs of disquiet among NDA partners. Sources said that BJP president Amit Shah made a final effort to stop Manjhi from leaving the NDA by offering a ministerial berth in the Bihar government for his son, but Manjhi had by then taken his decision.
HAM(S) spokesperson Danish Rizwan told The Indian Express: “There was no consultation with alliance partners on key postings and transfers in the NDA. Opinions of junior partners were seldom sought. The BJP has been very aggressive in NDA II and is no longer playing second fiddle to Nitish.”
All eyes are now on RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha, who is said to be in close touch with the RJD. Kushwaha has been sore because his party did not get an opportunity to contest the Jehanabad bypoll. “We will see how the BJP treats us. If we are valued, we will continue in the alliance. Though pressure has been building from party workers to join the RJD, Kushwaha will wait for a bigger bargain. He perhaps wants the RJD to project him as the CM face in 2020 polls,” said an RLSP leader.
Kushwaha and Manjhi had together polled more than 5 per cent votes in the 2015 Assembly polls.
A JD(U) source said that although there had been no interference from the BJP in matters of governance, the “idea of NDA had to be worked out well”. “There used to be a position of NDA convenor at state and central levels when we were part of the NDA earlier. There is need for an NDA coordination committee to accommodate aspirations and hear the viewpoints of NDA partners. Manjhi’s walkout is not a good sign. In a tight situation, a leader commanding 3-4 per cent vote matters,” said the source.