Former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) seems to have been marginalised by its senior partners, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United), in the ruling National Democratic Alliance in Bihar. After all three Vikassheel Insaan Party MLAs defected to the BJP in March, the HAM(S) also lost its bargaining power within the NDA.
Addressing his party’s national executive meeting last Sunday, Manjhi said that being in the NDA as a junior partner of the BJP and the JD(U) was causing him “ghutan (suffocation)”.
Manjhi, who has done several U-turns in recent years, has often pressed for the setting up of an NDA coordination committee, which has not been done.
His son Santosh Kumar Manjhi, who is an MLC (member of the Legislative Council), is the only minister from the HAM(S) in the NDA government led by JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar.
The HAM (S) accounts for four MLAs, including Manjhi, in the 243-member state Assembly. In the 2020 Assembly polls, the NDA had left seven seats for the party to contest. In the upcoming MLC polls, the BJP and the JD(U) have fielded two candidates each, leaving nothing for the HAM(S).
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HAM(S) spokesperson Danish Rizwan told The Indian Express: “During elections, our workers contribute as much as JD(U) and BJP workers. Our leader Jitan Ram Manjhi campaigns extensively. But when it comes to sharing MLCs and Rajya Sabha seats, our leaders are not considered. This has disheartened our workers.” He also said the party has already conveyed its displeasure in this regard to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
A veteran leader, Manjhi, who became the CM in 2014 when he was with the JD(U), has been aspiring to get a Rajya Sabha berth or the Governor’s post. He has, however, been caught in a bind now.
The HAM(S) could not afford to cross over to the Opposition camp as numbers would not add up to form an alternative government. In the Opposition’s “grand alliance”, the RJD, Congress, CPI and CPI(ML) together account for 111 MLAs. Even if the AIMIM’s five MLAs rally behind them, the grand alliance’s tally would still be short of majority. The Opposition front will be short of majority by a few seats even if the HAM(S) switches to its fold.
Such a scenario leaves the HAM(S) with barely any option but to co-exist with the NDA, despite being sidelined. Manjhi has also failed to emerge as a leader of the Dalit community, which accounts for about 16 per cent of the state’s population.
Manjhi had created a flutter when he had refused to vacate the CM’s chair for Nitish in February 2015. After being forced to step down then, he subsequently floated his own party, the HAM (S), but failed to expand it. He could not succeed in his first real test in the 2015 Assembly polls when his party could win only two seats and then fell out with the NDA. Although he later returned to the NDA after being in the grand alliance for a period, his party’s influence has been since dwindling. The HAM(S)’s survival has now continued to be critically dependent on an alliance.
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