PATNA: The dissident faction of Bihar’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) on Monday formally merged with the state’s ruling JD(U), delivering a blow to HAM founder-president and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
The development came a day after the dissident group, led by former agriculture minister Narendra Singh, held a state council meeting of the two-year-old party and sacked Manjhi from the post of its president. Singh, one of HAM’s founder-members, was known as a trusted aide of Manjhi. His revolt began when the Dalit leader snapped ties with the ruling NDA and brought HAM into the RJD-led Opposition alliance on February 28.
Chief Minister and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar made a surprise appearance at a news conference organised by his party to announce merger of the Narendra Singh-led HAM faction with it. Both Singh and Kumar were all smiles and exchanged garlands and pleasantries on the occasion.
“It is a matter of happiness that an old associate who had quit the party at his own will is now back in the party. JD(U) is the real political abode of Narendra Singh,” said Kumar.
Gajendra Manjhi, who was appointed by the rebel faction as HAM’s national president in place of Manjhi, also took formal membership of JD(U) along with about a dozen other leaders. JD(U) state president Bashistha Narayan Singh and water resources minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh were present on the occasion.
“After seeing how Manjhi quit NDA without respecting the wishes of the party’s leaders and workers simply for his personal gains, I am repenting the fact that I had supported him both when he was chief minister and when he stepped down,” said Narendra Singh.
The upper-caste leader was with JD(U) before forming HAM. He was expelled from JD(U) along with six other ministers in February 2015 for owing allegiance to Manjhi ahead of a trust vote that he faced – and lost – in the Assembly.
HAM national spokesperson Danish Rizwan said the rebel group’s merger with JD(U) will not harm HAM. “Narendra Singh and others who switched sides had ceased to be HAM members a long time ago. Singh joined JD(U) in a desperate bid to secure the political career of his two sons,” he added.