Bihar: What Manjhi might dent and paint

Farooq Anwar

File Photo(PTI)

On Saturday, 28th February, Manjhi put on hold all the political rumours and speculation by forming a new party- Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and gave a clear message to his opponents that he is still alive in Bihar politics. The sole aim of his new born party is to expose the real face of Nitish Kumar and the JD(U). With the announcement of HAM, BJP got a setback, who tried to woo Manjhi, to weave with him emotional and political love story in order to counter Nitish Kumar. But finally BJP labour went in vain.

A week before the birth of Manjhi’s new port, the political temperature of Bihar was recorded high as all roads lead to Vidhan Sabha to know who will be the winner in the battle of proving trust on the floor of the Bihar assembly. Owing to this, there was a speculation of a high profile hectic political drama ahead of the trust vote, but the balloon of political excitement, compromise and chaos suddenly burst when Manjhi government left the trust vote procedure before the final countdown by declaring his resignation to the Bihar Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi.

The political question thereafter arises why Manjhi left the decisive trust vote test? The debate deepened further — why Manjhi, the man who created ‘trouble’ in JD(U) and Bihar politics left battle abruptly? Is Manjhi, before the trust vote, disappointed that he is not going to win even after BJP’s MLAs are ready to support his government?

Mr. Manjhi in his ‘frustrated’ speech having gravitas on his face attacked not only Nitish government but also the speaker of Vidhan Sabha by saying that his conduct was not in conformity with the constitution. Manjhi, baffled with his bargain politics, surrendered before the trust vote. But the final arguments drawn from his speech is that he warned not only Nitish but also different political parties that no one is to under-estimate the power of Dalits.

The more serious and pragmatic question that people of Bihar and media want to know is that: How will Manjhi, the lost child, in Bihar politics with its new political venture, weave the success story that led to his emergence as the key player? What special things and packages are in the box of Manjhi that he formed recently with the support of ousted leaders from the JD(U) camp? What are the strategies that Manjhi will employ to harvest, especially the Dalit and Tribal votes, and impress the masses of Bihar? Who will come forward to have alliance and walk on the road that reluctant Manjhi has created, after forgetting his previous role as a trouble creator? Will HAM bring ebullience or just remain a political metaphor and organisation that carries the tag of ‘Vote Katuwaa’?

Politics is a game of uncertainty, but in every uncertainty there lies a hope of certainty and retrieval. It might be that the Dalit identity of Manjhi works in the Bihar politics after the ‘HAM’ formation and lead to Manjhi’s return. Whatever may the future of Manjhi, one thing is clear that in the political dictionary of Manjhi, BJP is not an untouchable word and also its Hindutva politics. Manjhi might even shake hands with the BJP in order to be the next CM of Bihar if his party does perform well but lacks required numerical strength. The sweet and straightforward reason that led to formation of a new political outfit is that Manjhi, a Maha Dalit leader, brilliantly knows that Dalits constitute around 22% of the state population. If they become more politically aware, they are in a position to choose a Dalit Chief Minister by their own sheer strength like on the pattern of UP.

The scuffle between the BJP and the JD(U) will intense even more as Bihar is going to polls later this year. All the eyes and ears of Modi-Shah duo will be on Bihar. What strategy they will employ to bloom lotus in Bihar? After the landslide defeat in Delhi polls, Modi-Shah duo will have to do a herculean task to capture land in Bihar.

In Bihar politics, Dalit and Backward Caste vote banks matter a lot which any political party cannot afford to sideline. So BJP after failing to bring Manjhi in the saffron family had only one prime and powerful Dalit face in Bihar: Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP. BJP will target to fetch more Dalit votes in the basket of BJP-LJP alliance like the earlier Lok Sabha polls. So after the emergence of Manjhi’s HAM on the political platform of Bihar, the Dalit, Tribal and Backward class voters will be in a dilemma as to where to go and where to not.

On the other hand, Manjhi’s political mentor turned foe — Nitish Kumar is also ready to counter Manjhi’s Dalit card politics. This seems when Arun Manjhi, a Dalit leader, has proposed the name of Nitish Kumar as the new leader of the JD(U) Legislature by nullifying Manjhi’s Dalit card and giving the message to people of Bihar that Dalits are with Nitish Kumar.

There is no denying the fact that the people of Bihar gave popular mandate to Nitish Kumar. But the drama that went for a couple of days, emotionally and politically downgraded the popularity graph of Nitish Kumar to a large extent.

This time Nitish Kumar returns by carrying the tag of being the 4 times CM of Bihar. His current task is now double and full of trouble.

Nitish Kumar not only has to successfully carry forward the JD(U) party for the next polls later this year, but the foremost important task for him is to unite his party because in the recent times JD(U) has been passing through internal revolts. Nitish Kumar not only has to keep intact JD(U)-RJD alliance, but also the Janata Parivar. He also needs to be ready to welcome new secular alliance in order to give a tough fight to the forces led by the HAM and the BJP.

The coming days of Nitish will be tougher because not only Nitish has to fight against the BJP’s Hindutva agenda but also with rebel ex CM Manjhi who will try his best to equalize his insult by projecting Nitish as an anti-Dalit leader. Especially after Manjhi’s new political front, Nitish has to focus extra on Dalit and Tribal vote bank. Nitish would also have to take grip on the Swarn (upper caste) vote bank, who were recently disenchanted from the JD(U) due to Manhji’s continuous and controversial remarks on them.

One thing that adds advantage to Nitish personality is that of being a secular leader and a man of development. It is presumed that like previous assembly elections, Dalit Hindus and Muslims will vote in favour of Nitish in large numbers irrespective of Manjhi’s anti-Nitish campaign.

But in politics nothing is impossible. A stalwart can become irrelevant in a matter of time, and vice-versa. Here victory is determined by majority votes. So the biggest political truth will remain in suspense mode until the results of the coming Bihar elections come out.

Whatever may be the result, one thing is clear that in coming days there will be more blame game, personality clash, anti-defection phenomenon and cold war in the political arena of Bihar. As the election rolls closer day by day, more fire and water is on the way, too.