PATNA: Even though Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi was anointed by his predecessor Nitish Kumar, who considered him a pliable and soft option, is now carving out his own niche in state politics. More importantly Manjhi, who is the first Mahadalit to become the state’s CM, has been engaged in efforts to consolidate the Dalit votes in his favour as they constitute 15 per cent of the state population.
Political analysts feel that replacing Manjhi before the Assembly elections will not be a cakewalk for Nitish especially since the former is trying to consolidate his vote bank. The CM had recently sparked a controversy at a function here to commemorate the birth centenary of three-time Dalit CM Bhola Paswan Shastri, by saying that the idol in a temple’s premises in Madhubani district was purified after he visited it. “I came to know later that the premises and the Sanctum sanctorum were cleansed after my visit. This shows that the mindset against people of marginalised sections of society still exists,” he said.
“The information was given to me by Cabinet colleague Ram Lalkan Ram Raman” he added. However, Ram denied that having said any such thing.
Manjhi had kicked off another controversy earlier when he said that Dalit youths should marry outside their castes and increase their population to become a “political strength” in the state. “If we take our population from 15 to 22 per cent, we will become a political force. Any party that gets 22 per cent vote can come to power. What I am saying has political meanings,” he was quoted as saying.
The CM was clearly referring to Uttar Pradesh, which has a Dalit population of around 22 per cent, which helped Mayawati to become Chief Minister.
Manjhi has often said at public meetings that he has been CM for only 10 months, but at the same time appealed to the Dalits to unite to vote for a Dalit CM. Currently the JD(U) does not have a leader with a strong social base who could help Manjhi to be in a strong bargaining position when he would have to leave the place to accommodate Nitish Kumar. Incidentally, the BJP has also tried to woo the Dalit voters by promising free colour television sets if it comes to power in Bihar.
“If the BJP comes to power in Bihar, our government will provide colour televisions along with electricity connection to all Mahadalit localities in the state. The government will bear the entire cost,” said senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.