Manjhi-Paswan spar exposes fissures in Bihar NDA

RSTV Bureau
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FILE: Former CM of Bihar Jitan Ram Manjhi and Union minister Ramvilas Paswan in happier times. Photo – PTI

Just as the announcement of crucial Bihar assembly polls is believed to be round the corner, there are seeming fissures in the house of the main challenger – the NDA. The BJP-led front that consists of Union minister Ramvilas Paswan led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi led Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Upendra Kushwaha led RLSP witnessed the first instance of difference within its allies on Monday.

Former Bihar CM Jitin Ram Manjhi charged Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan of deserting the cause which launched him into the politics. On Monday Manjhi attacked Paswan claiming that the latter was neither a leader of Dailits nor he had done anything for them.

“How could he (Paswan) claim to be a national leader of Dalits when he did not utter a word on several issues plaguing the Scheduled Castes. He didn’t even protest when his own castes of Paswan and Dusadh were not included among ‘mahadalits’ by the Nitish Kumar government,” Jitan Ram Manjhi told the press in Bihar.

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Rohtash: LJP President Ramvilas Paswan and party MP Chirag Paswan during a public rally at Kochas in Rohtash on September 8, 2015. Photo – PTI

He also accused Paswan of nepotism and practising “family-centric politics”. Manjhi was in particular critical of Paswan promoting his son Chirag. 32-year-old Chirag Paswan is a sitting MP from Jamui parliamentary constituency.

“I am telling this with due respect that Paswan has been unable to raise himself and his party above his son and brothers. His entire politics revolves around them,” Jitan Ram Manjhi told the press in Bihar.

Manjhi, once a senior leader in the ruling JD(U), had split with his parent party last year after Nitish Kumar took over as the CM of the state, replacing Manjhi. With some of his loyalists, Manjhi floated Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), which has since supported the BJP.

The former Chief Minister also took on Ramvilas Paswan over the latter’s reported jibe on Manjhi in a TV news channel where he had reportedly said, “he (Manjhi) was on trial in NDA”. Retorting that he was offended by the purported remark, Manjhi added that he has been in active politics since 1970s and has served as an MLA, minister in the state Cabinet and also Chief Minister.

The assembly elections in Bihar are scheduled to be held later this year where the BJP-led NDA is locked in a terse battle with the incumbent JD(U)-led grand ‘secular’ alliance. While, the ruling combine had announced the fine print of their alliance, the challenger NDA is yet to work out the contours of their seat-sharing.

(With inputs from the PTI)