By Arun Srivastava
Former Bihar chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha chief Jitan Ram Manjhi has quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). With this he has also announced the decision to join the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, the Grand Alliance. The development might not have any adverse numerical impact on the state NDA government headed by Nitish Kumar, but his joining hands with the mahagathbandhan will severely inflict damage to the BJP, particularly to the moral authority of Nitish.
Ever since the Nitish-led NDA government came to power, Manjhi was kept in the political periphery and was treated like a pariah by both JD(U) and BJP. Manjhi was not shown the respect he deserved. Though he felt aggrieved at the attitude of his alliance partners, he never made it public.
Recently his desire to field his party’s candidate for the Rajya Sabha seat was outrightly rejected by the BJP leadership. In fact, the sign of split in the coalition surfaced a week ago when Manjhi expressed unhappiness on his demand being overlooked.Manjhi had declared that if HAM was not allotted one Rajya Sabha seat, the party would not support the BJP-led coalition in the upcoming by-elections to one Lok Sabha and two Assembly seats.
The BJP’s cold shouldering of Manjhi primarily owes to Nitish’s aversion for him. It is an open secret that Nitish did not like Manjhi’s criticism after he was forced to resign for making space for Nitish to come back as chief minister with the help of Lalu Yadav. Manjhi had formed HAM after walking out of the JD(U) to protest against the move to have him step down as chief minister in 2015.
Manjhi has been close to the leaders of other parties. In fact, some six months ago he had dropped the hint of his coming out of NDA. Manjhi staking his future with RJD shows that he still has confidence in the party even though Lalu Yadav is in jail. His decision came after he met RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav at his residence in Patna. As the things stand, in the interest of greater unity of the anti-BJP forces, the RJD may concede one Rajya Sabha seat to HAM. The move apparently has the blessings of Lalu Yadav as it could bring the Dalits of Bihar closer to RJD and away from the influence of Ram Bilas Paswan.
Manjhi is the second most important Dalit leader to quit NDA. Barely a fortnight ago, Dalit ideologue Mulchand Rana quit RSS and BJP after expressing discontent for months. The RSS Dalit ideologue from Gujarat quit as he felt that both RSS and BJP, to which he remained loyal for nearly 48 years, were no longer interested in bringing Dalits and other Hindu communities closer. In a sharp reference to the RSS/BJP hypocrisy, he stated that the party’s ‘Samrasata’ is nothing but ‘Karmakand’ (a ritual), something they talk much about, but don’t value or implement.
“I did it with a heavy heart. For the past couple of years, I have been telling both RSS and BJP units of Gujarat that the rift between Dalits and other Hindu communities is widening. The importance of Dalits in BJP and RSS has been dropping over past 10 years. But in past five years, the rift between Dalits and other communities has widened so much that it has led to an increase in cases of atrocities,” he said.
The Dalit politics is acquiring a new dimension today. Dalits have started reacting to discrimination perpetrated on them and assert their individuality, which is the basis of the new Dalit politics. While urban-based Dalits have been striving to join the rank of the neo middle class and assert their democratic rights, the Dalits of rural India continue to assert their economic rights. They are also distancing themselves from the kind of politics practiced by Mayawati.
No doubt caste continues to be the defining element; they are disillusioned with the traditional nature of Dalit politics. The desire of Dalits to join hands with the Yadav dominated RJD clearly manifests this. They nurse a strong feeling that their leaders have simply exploited them and used them for their personal gains. In this process, they are also moving away from the communist parties. They would rather identify with the Naxalites than the traditional Left. Incidentally in the 2015 Bihar assembly elections while the Grand Alliance of RJD-JD(U) bulldozed even the BJP, the CPI(ML) managed to win three seats with Mahadalit population.. (IPA Service)