February 20, 2015 1:07:01 am
The leadership had initially appeared inclined to stay out of the power struggle in Patna and rather bid for a clear mandate in the polls later this year. Eventually, however, it went along the line suggested by the state unit.
Sources said all those who spoke at the legislature group meeting in Patna Wednesday had noted a surge of support for Manjhi among Mahadalits amid Nitish’s effort to reclaim his chair. The BJP MLAs felt that by backing Manjhi, the party could win the support of Mahadalits to add to its upper-caste vote-base. And such a Mahadalit consolidation, they felt, would not trigger an upper-caste backlash because those voters would have nowhere else to go with OBC leaders Sharad Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Nitish having made a common cause.
Having burnt its fingers in Delhi, where the BJP was routed after unilateral electoral decisions, the central leadership chose to accept the state unit’s view. “They (state leaders) have to go to people for their votes, and if they think their interests are best served by supporting Manjhi, let it be,” a senior central functionary said.
The Bihar poll will be more crucial for the BJP than Delhi’s was. It involves the egos of both PM Narendra Modi and Nitish, apart from the fact that the outcome will in some ways be a measure of Modi’s current popularity.
There remains a question mark over Manjhi’s future course after the confidence vote, should Nitish win. Nitish is sure to dare the BJP to project Manjhi as its CM choice to demonstrate its commitment to Mahadalits. More so, if he joins the BJP. The party can work its way around this by prompting Manjhi to float his own party. The alleged overtures by the RJD’s Pappu Yadav (see report) are attributed to this possible project. BJP sources have sought to hint Pappu has the blessings of Lalu, who may be keen on settling scores with Nitish. In such an event, however, the moot question would be how Lalu could expect to survive if the BJP were to come to power. And more importantly, who would get the Mahadalit vote if Manjhi and the BJP were to go to the polls separately.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.