Manjhi’s voice, courtesy Nitish


Soroor Ahmed

Niitish Kumar might have snatched the post of chief minister from Jitan Ram Manjhi but in return gave him something more precious. 

A day after the defeat of JD(U) in the 2014 Lok Sabha election Nitish resigned from his post and offered it to Manjhi, who, as the party nominee, had himself lost from Gaya parliamentary seat.

But what is more important is that by design or default he gave Manjhi a ‘voice’––something perhaps more priceless. His confidence suddenly grew, so did the voice.

Today he is considered as a representative of Mahadalit and is more in demand in political market than Ram Vilas Paswan. No leader of Musahars, a community known for rat-eating, has risen as high as he in just 17 months. His community is among the weakest of all the 22 Scheduled Castes of Bihar.

Though he became an MLA for the first time in 1980, yet he was hardly a known figure till he took over the reign of power.

The only time his name appeared prominently in the national media was on November 24, 2005, the day Nitish became CM. A couple of hours after the oath-taking ceremony the new CM asked him to resign as it was found that his name figured in a scam.

However, he was re-inducted into the cabinet a few months later after his name was cleared. Manjhi had served in the Congress and Lalu-Rabri ministries too.

Though Manjhi consistently accuses Nitish of humiliating him by forcing him to resign yet what he ignores is that it was none else but Sushil Kumar Modi, and other BJP leaders who hurled all sorts of allegations on him in the first seven months of his chief ministership. He was not only dubbed as a puppet of Nitish, but demands were also made to arrest him and his son-in-law after it was found that Manjhi had made the latter his personal secretary. The entire BJP rank and file screamed when he called the Scheduled Castes and Tribes as original inhabitants of India, while the upper castes were dubbed as outsiders.

When Manjhi called for the chopping off the hands of errant doctors it was none else but these very leaders in opposition who publicly upbraided him.

When Manjhi alleged more than a month after visiting a temple that it was purified with Ganga Jal after his visit it was the BJP people and not those in JD(U), who questioned it.

Though as CM, Manjhi’s voice against Nitish grew shriller and shriller the latter hardly took his name to attack. Even now he seldom singles him out for criticism and targets only Narendra Modi. 

Manjhi may be true in alleging that Nitish was not allowing him to work freely. But he is not the only victim. Paneerselvam served Jayalalithaa twice without ever complaining. He abdicated the ’throne’ for her once she was acquitted of charges. In fact he sounded grateful to her for making him chief minister of Tamil Nadu twice.

Actually, it was the political ambition of Manjhi, which forced him into the lap of those who actually humiliated him. The BJP realized his potential only at the fag end of his nine-month old stay in power.
After becoming the chief minister he realized that post- November 2015 there is no scope for him if he remains in Nitish’s camp. He felt that in the Assembly election the JD(U) would be wiped out. Even if it wins Nitish would return to replace him.

He anticipated that the BJP would be in a better position to offer him something after Nov 2015 election. So he started cultivating relationship with it and thus rose the banner of revolt. He knew that as a Mahadalit leader he would be an asset for the BJP, which would suitably reward him later. In a way it was a ‘far-sighted’ move of a man with a new voice.

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