Patna: Ending months of speculation, former Bihar chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi on Wednesday quit the state’s ruling NDA to join the Opposition RJD-led grand alliance, signalling changes in the state’s fluid politics ahead of the polls.
The decision came after the 73-year-old Dalit leader held an hour-long meeting with jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s two sons – Bihar Opposition leader Tejaswi Yadav and former health minister Tej Pratap Yadav. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s close aide and MLC Bhola Yadav had offered an open invitation to Manjhi to join the grand alliance on Tuesday.
“We have reached a decision. I am quitting NDA and joining the grand alliance,” Manjhi told reporters after holding talks with Tejaswi and Tej Pratap.
The development left Bihar’s ruling NDA parties – JD(U), BJP, RLSP and LJP – in shock and disbelief. Senior BJP leader and road construction minister Nand Kishore Yadav mounted a damage-control exercise, saying: “There is no rift in NDA. We will talk with Manjhi. He is a respected leader of NDA”.
As news about the closed-door meeting between Manjhi and the two young Yadav brothers emerged, Manjhi reportedly received calls from both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah, who tried to persuade him to stay with NDA. The soft-spoken Manjhi, however, clearly told them that he would not change his mind, said a HAM leader.