BJP allies Hindustani Awami Morcha (Secular) (HAM), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) fell by the wayside as the Grand Alliance rode to victory in Bihar. While HAM chief and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi won the lone seat of the 21 seats his party contested, LJP and RLSP won two seats each of the 40 and 23 seats they contested, respectively.
HAM (S)’s WhatsApp group, abuzz with activity ahead of results, saw only two updates after the NDA rout. In one, Manjhi congratulated Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar on Twitter, while in the other, party spokesperson Danish Rizwan said the party would “review” the debacle. He, however, added that the state had not “come out of the caste trap”.
Interestingly, it was Manjhi’s caste which made him emerge as a prime challenger to Nitish’s carefully-crafted Mahadalit constituency. He was seen as a leader with a potential to split the Bihar CM’s Mahadalit votebase. In a bid to get the arithmetic right, BJP took Manjhi on board.
He was projected as the main challenger to the Grand Alliance in the Magadh region. Manjhi got maximum attention of the PM during his rallies, sometimes at the expense of Union Minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan.
BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said: “We used his name very prominently after (Mohan) Bhagwat’s remarks to show that we have a galaxy of various caste group leaders”.
However, while Manjhi was able to defeat JD(U) heavyweight and Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary, his party did not help the NDA cause. Rather, NDA’s worst performance came in the Magadh and Bhagalpur regions. A JD(U) leader said: “When Manjhi had said before results that he would sit idle, do farming and write a book if NDA loses, it seemed like he had an intuition.”
Manjhi, who said there was no question of going with the Grand Alliance, would be aware he has become irrelevant for in state politics — at least for now.
A JD(U) leader also said Paswan may lose his clout in the Modi government. In fact, the LJP leader might have to redraw his strategy in state politics.
According to a BJP leader, Kushwaha’s RLSP had proved to be the “weakest link” for NDA as he failed to split Kushwaha votes and Nitish Kumar succeeded in getting a majority of Koeri-Kurmi votes. Kushwaha, who nursed the ambition of becoming CM, now looks like a baggage for the BJP.