Operation Manjhi fails

Published on March 12, 2015 05:30:30 AM
Smita Mishra / New Delhi : With Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi putting in his papers without facing the trust vote, Governor Keshrinath Tripathi invited Nitish Kumar to form the government and prove his majority within three weeks’ time. Nitish will return to the Chief Minister’s chair on February 22, when he takes oath for the fourth time. As its gamble failed to take off on the floor of the Assembly, the Central BJP leadership has now pinned its hope on weaning away a major chunk of the Mahadalit vote bank from the JD(U). 

With the Bihar CM quitting even before facing trust vote, BJP pins hopes on Mahadalit sentiment
The party is mulling on how best to rehabilitate Manjhi under the present circumstances. Meanwhile, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad said Manjhi had better not play anymore into the hands of the BJP and should come back to the JD(U-RJD) fold. Even before the trust vote, the BJP had an inkling that Manjhi would lose his chair since most of the JD(U)’s legislators appeared to back Nitish Kumar. However, the BJP was hoping against hope that Manjhi may succeed in breaking away a chunk of both JD(U) and RJD MLAs. 

But Manjhi informed the BJP leadership this morning that his efforts had failed and with the Speaker not ready for a secret vote, he would have to tender his resignation before the House convenes. Despite Manjhi’s losing this round, the BJP leaders are claiming that it’s a win-win situation for them. Mahadalits form about 22 per cent of the vote bank in Bihar. Since this new category was the brainchild of Nitish Kumar, the Mahadalit castes voted en bloc for Kumar in the last Lok Sabha polls even though the Modi wave swept Bihar. 

The BJP took the decision to back Manjhi openly once it observed the reaction in the community against the ‘humiliation’ meted out to the Mahadalit Chief Minister by Nitish. However, there are too many questions attached to the BJP’s optimistic presentation of the future political scenario. 

First, would the Mahadalits still stick with Manjhi (read BJP) when he is no more a Chief Minister? What would be the internal dynamics within the BJP if Manjhi joins them? Would Manjhi float a party and then align with the BJP? If Manjhi is made a Central minister (as hinted by some insiders), how and where would the BJP find a Parliamentary seat to accommodate him? Can the BJP afford a loudmouth and unpredictable loose cannon like Manjhi in a politically volatile State like Bihar?