Jitan Ram Manjhi, leader of Hindustani Awami Morcha (Secular) and former Bihar CM, has been enhancing his political purchase, bargaining and negotiating prowess with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U). The first hint was dropped by Manjhi when on August 20, he formally announced his dissociation from the Grand Alliance. Manjhi was said to be upset with the approach and attitude of the RJD on seat sharing adjustments.
I believe that if RJD had agreed to form a coordination committee to detail and discuss Manjhi’s proposal, then its fate and berth would have been sealed. But by not doing so, it has given Nitish a competitive lead and advantage which will make it almost impossible for the RJD to stage a comeback. Though Tejashwi would definitely play his act in drawing the attention of the electorate. Though the electorate is highly disappointed with Nitish’s misrule and misgovernance still, they would want to award him a term, if not for RJD’s unsound alliance with Congress and the Left parties bereft of caste arithmetic.
Irrespective of the support extended by smaller regional parties and social groups, the prospects for the Grand Alliance remain limited in size. Nitish has the support of caste groups like EBCs, lower SCs and OBCs which will definitely do the trick for him. RJD seems to be struggling except for the smooth transfer of Muslim and Yadav votes. Tejashwi has, on record, accepted that lack of acceptability in the lower SCs might narrow the scope for the RJD.
Tejashwi will be required to aggressively put, pursue and present his case before the electorate. In his capacity, he has visited many flood-affected districts, given rescue and aid to the affected, graduating into a popular mass leader ready to own up the charge as and when required. I am made to understand that there are a lot many which ought to be attempted. First and foremost, building a connection with the electorate. Secondly, living up to their aspirations and objectives and thirdly, fostering in them a collective sense of identity.
I remember how Nitish had reacted to Narendra Modi’s DNA barb in the 2015 Bihar assembly elections. But around that time, Nitish was a part of the Grand Alliance shifting his loyalties later. A Laloo for RJD could have been pioneering as a Nitish for JDU. Otherwise, the destiny of NDA in Bihar would be hanging in hope if not for Nitish. As for the acceptability of Paswan and Manjhi to gain ground and for the BJP limited to the pockets of urban upper-caste influence.
Nitish offers a purpose to this pack by all means and ends and any alternative to him will have to bear this reality. Crossovers and desertions are the chief feature and characteristics of politics in Bihar. As the state assembly elections draw to a close, this is one such probable which every party looks for. Be it a Manjhi in JDU or a Rajak in RJD, strategy, skills and tactics are what make you win power apart from the calculations of caste arithmetics in Bihar.