PATNA: Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) chief and Dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi has caused a fresh headache in Bihar's Opposition RJD-led grand alliance by demanding tickets for half of the state's 40 Lok Sabha seats for his party for next year's national elections.
Even as the grand alliance is yet to formally discuss the sharing of seats mainly because of expectations that NDA partner Rashrtiya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) may switch sides, Manjhi's demand for 20 seats left the grand alliance leaders shocked.
"Our people want to contest on 20 seats. They are confident that they would win these 20 seats if tickets are given to them," said Manjhi, a former chief minister of Bihar, after chairing a meeting of senior leaders of his party.
Manjhi's stand was particularly worrying for RJD and Congress because the HAM chief had said on August 31 that his aim is to make RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav Bihar's next chief minister and that, if necessary, HAM would sacrifice its electoral ambitions and not contest even on a single seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
RJD and Congress leaders took Manjhi's demand for 20 seats lightly.
"During election time, leaders often say certain things in the media in order to raise the morale of their party workers. Seat-sharing talks in the grand alliance will be held at the right time. There is no crisis in it," said Congress leader Premchand Mishra.
"The grand alliance is keen to win all the 40 LS seats in Bihar. Manjhi is a respected leader in our alliance, and seat-sharing talks will be held in due course," said RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwary. The ruling JD(U) and BJP targeted Manjhi, who had quit NDA in February and joined the grand alliance.
"People who failed to stay with Nitish Kumar can never stay with Lalu Prasad Yadav. Manjhi had joined the grand alliance to make his son an MLC. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav has been a cricketer. He can now play T20 with Manjhi," said JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh.
"Leaders like Jitan Ram Manjhi will sink RJD's boat. The party and the grand alliance will be wiped out from Bihar's political map in next year's polls," said BJP leader Nitin Navin.ENDS