PATNA: Even as former Bihar Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary organised a 'Save the Constitution rally' here on Sunday, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi attacked him by describing him "anti-Dalit" and bringing to the fore the tussle in the Opposition grand alliance over leadership of the Dalits.
"The Constitution of the country is in danger today. There are perceptible conspiracies to end reservation for the Dalits, minorities and other disadvantaged sections. We will never allow that to happen," said Chaudhary, a prominent Dalit leader, at the rally at Gandhi Maidan organised by Vanchit Varg Morcha, an organisation he founded after he quit Bihar's ruling JD(U) last month. Manjhi, president of Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM), an ally of the RJD-led grand alliance, termed the rally as "empty posturing" and questioned Chaudhary's credentials on Dalit empowerment.
"He (Chaudhary) is like the wolf in the fable that changed its colours. Nobody would be impressed by such empty posturing. When he was the Assembly Speaker, his action was solely responsible for preventing me from continuing as chief minister," said Manjhi.
Chaudhary and Manjhi are currently the prominent Dalit faces in the anti-NDA camp in Bihar. While Manjhi quit NDA and made HAM an ally of the grand alliance in February, Chaudhary is yet to formally join any party but has shown a clear tilt towards the grand alliance. While quitting JD(U), he had vowed to work towards making RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav Bihar's next chief minister. In February 2014, as Speaker of Bihar Assembly, Choudhary had notified a group of 13 RJD legislators as a separate entity without verifying their signatures, which facilitated their merger with JD(U) and cost Manjhi the CM post.
In the 2015 Assembly polls, Chaudhary lost to Jitan Ram Manjhi in Imamganj constituency. When asked about Manjhi's attacks, Chaudhary said nothing except "I thank him". The open spat between the two senior Dalit leaders caused heartburns in RJD and elicited ridicule from the ruling JD(U) and BJP.
The rally was also attended by Maharashtra Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, who advocated a stronger unity between Dalits and Muslims in order to ensure that the benefits of reservation guaranteed in the Constitution are protected.