Bihar’s former chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi on Friday expressed his support for CM Nitish Kumar’s stand backing status quo on Article 370, setting the political circles abuzz with speculation that he could be considering a return to the NDA and dumping the grand alliance camp, which is still to finalise the seat sharing for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
“I do endorse the stand of the chief minister,” he said while talking to reporters in Gaya.
The former CM also talked tough in regard to seat sharing in GA, saying he should get more number of seats than other allies, barring the RJD and Congress. “ I am not going anywhere. But , I should get adequate number of seats, just a little less than RJD and Congress. We have a large vote base in Bihar,” he said.
In the afternoon, the HAM(S) chief left for New Delhi.
A few days back, Manjhi had said was always ready to go to Rajya Sabha if he did not fight the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
There are indications the HAM(S) chief is unhappy with the way the GA, especially the RJD, has been cold-shouldering him by offering him much less number of seats than his demand.
Sources said Manjhi had put up a list of 12 seats to RJD leaders, but has been offered only one seat, Gaya.
Manjhi is a lone MLA in state assembly of his party.
“Our demand for higher number of seats in comparison to RLSP and other small allies is justified as our party boss has the capacity to transfer 8% of Musahar votes and 2% of other scheduled caste votes in favour of GA candidates. In GA, no other leader barring RJD chief Lalu Prasad has the capacity to transfer such big number of votes,” said Rajesh Pandey, national spokesperson of HAM(S).
Meanwhile, state vice-president of the BJP, Devesh Kumar, denied speculation that the BJP was in talks with Manjhi . “ There has been no talk with HAM. But yes, we will always welcome Manjhi if he chooses to come to our side. The HAM(S) chief has to take a decision first, then we will see,” Kumar said.
A few days back, state BJP president Nityanand Rai and senior JD(U) leader had also said the NDA would be happy if the HAM(S) chief returned to the coalition. “We will welcome Manjhi. He was with us and we have high respect for him,” Rai said.
The ‘accidental’ CM
Briefly worked in postal and telegraph department
First becmae MLA in 1980 on Congress ticket, in his 7th term now at the age 75
Switched to Janata Dal in 1990
Joined RJD after split in Janata Dal in 1997
In 2005, joined JD(U)
Landed CM’s chair when Nitish picked him to replace himself after JD(U)’s poor show in the 2014 LS polls
Ties with Nitish soured, had to resign hours a vote of confidence in the state assembly on Feb 20, 2015
Expelled from JD(U), floated his own party Hindustani Awam Morcha in May 2015
In 2015 assembly polls, Manjhi contested from two seats, Imamganj and Makhdumpur, won the first, lost from second
In Feb 2018, Manjhi left the BJP-JD(U) led NDA coalition to join grand alliance