With Manjhi and Sahni as allies, Bihar NDA needs no opponents
Observers of the Bihar political scene would be watching with interest how deftly Nitish Kumar handles the volatile duo, not only to survive in office, but also to rein in an upbeat BJP
Hue tum dost jiske, dushman uska asman kyon ho (With you as friend, the sky has no business to be the enemy), said the great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib about 200 years back. Read in the context of Bihar NDA, the couplet holds good as, with Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mukesh Sahni as allies, the Bihar NDA needs no opponents. As on date, both Manjhi and Sahni are separately capable of pulling the rug and causing the new government in Bihar to fall as Nitish Kumar, with the support of 125 MLAs, enjoys a paper thin majority in the 243 member House.
Like many other politicians of the state, including CM Nitish Kumar, Manjhi and Sahni have never been accused of political consistency, says activist SB Bhaskar in a somewhat sarcastic tone.
Though relatively new to Bihar’s rough political terrain, Sahni has proved to be a fast learner and like the more acrobatic Manjhi, has made three somersaults in the last five years. As such, another convenient somersault, or at least its threat, cannot be ruled out. It all depends on the quality and quantity of butter on the side of the political slice that will determine the future course of action of the troublesome politician, the seasoned activist added.
Jitan Ram Manjhi, who made his political debut in 1980, has been a part of all mainstream political parties before floating his own political vending cart. He was in the Congress for the longest period – sixteen years to be precise – before joining the then JD led by Lalu Prasad in 1996. Following a split, the party was renamed as RJD.
Sensing public mood, Jitan Ram Manjhi jumped off the RJD ship ahead of the 2005 assembly election. Humiliation greeted him in the party as he was sacked within a few hours after being sworn as a minister in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet as he, at that time, like the present Education Minister Mewalal Chaudhary, figured as an accused of a criminal offence. Chaudhary must thank his stars as he did not meet Manjhi’s fate despite the hue and cry after his appointment.
A decade later, Manjhi ditched his third mentor Nitish Kumar (Jagannath Mishra and Lalu Prasad being the other two) to form his own outfit called Hinduatani Awam Morcha (HAM). The Morcha was part of the NDA in 2015 assembly election, contested 2019 Parliamentary election as an MGB ally and again joined NDA ahead of the assembly election 2020.
VIP chief Mukesh Sahni too, in a brief span of about five years, has done some fast hops. In 2015 assembly election Sahni campaigned for the BJP. Three years later, he formed his own party and contested the 2019 Parliamentary election as a separate party. He later joined the MGB and again changed sides to join the NDA. Having himself lost the election from Simri Bakhtiarpur, Sahni successfully bargained for a ministerial berth and in all likelihood he would be made an MLC within the next six months.
Both Manjhi and Sahni know that their present weight was much above their size and they are in a position to dictate terms. Late Ram Bilas Paswan once boasted that he held the key to power in Bihar. Now both Manjhi and Sahni can make a similar claim.
About Manjhi, it is said that ‘bahut nikle mere arman magar phir bhi vo kam nikle’ (though too many wishes have been granted but they are not enough).
Himself an MLA, Manjhi has got his son Santosh as minister and Samdhin Jyoti Devi as an MLA. With time running out (he is 76), Jitan Ram Manjhi has to find suitable positions for younger son Perween Manjhi and son-in-law Devendra Manjhi. Devendra contested the assembly election from the Makhdumpur seat of Jahanabad district and lost to RJD’s Satish Kumar.
Moreover, Jitan Ram Manjhi has made three unsuccessful attempts to enter Parliament and is said to be more than eager to live his Delhi dream. He is now in a position to bargain for a Rajya Sabha seat as well.
Observers of the Bihar political scene would be watching with interest how deftly Nitish Kumar handles the volatile duo, not only to survive in office, but also to rein in an upbeat BJP.