Patna, Sep 26 (IANS) Former Bihar chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) president Jitan Ram Manjhi says his sole aim in the assembly elections is to oust Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The 70-year-old, a friend-turned-foe of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader, also feels it is wrong to dub the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi communal.
“If I become the chief minister of Bihar again, I will turn Bihar into a model state,” Manjhi told IANS in an interview ahead of the October-November polls. “Currently, I am working hard to oust Nitish Kumar from power.”
According to him, it was Nitish Kumar’s arrogance that made him see Modi as his “number one enemy”.
This, he said, was creating hurdles for the development of Bihar.
Manjhi became the chief minister of Bihar in May 2014 after the Nitish Kumar-led JD-U was battered in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
But some of his controversial moves forced Nitish Kumar to oust him in February 2015 and return to power with the help of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad.
Manjhi then severed links with the JD-U and floated the HAM — and teamed up with the BJP for the assembly elections.
“I broke myths after I became the chief minister by initiating several innovative measures. If I become chief minister again, I will prove myself a rare chief minister to make Bihar a developed state,” Manjhi told IANS.
“But at present my only aim is to oust Nitish Kumar by defeating his Grand Alliance with the RJD and the Congress.”
Manjhi, who has emerged as an icon among sections of Dalits and a key player in Bihar, said the HAM was with the BJP-led NDA to trip Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad.
“After he removed me, Nitish Kumar first cancelled all my decisions that I took in my short duration as chief minister to empower the poorest of the poor.
“Later, he borrowed all my concepts and implemented 19 of my 34 decisions,” said a smiling Manjhi, clad in his usual white cotton dhoti-kurta. “In fact I did many things that even Nitish Kumar could not do.”
Manjhi said the people of Bihar were fed up with both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad. “In their 25 years of rule, people faced rampant corruption, poor law and order and domination of dynastic rule.
“People have made up mind to vote against Lalu and Nitish Kumar.”
According to him, the BJP and its allies would win 180 of the 243 assembly seats. “The HAM will win all 20 seats it is contesting.”
He said he disagreed that the BJP was a communal force and opposed to secularism. “It is very dishonest of them to call the BJP communal.
“Lalu ran his government in early 90s with the help of the BJP. The BJP wasn’t communal then? Nitish Kumar has had a relationship of nearly 17 years with the BJP. Wasn’t the BJP communal then?
“Modi is a neutral person, who is committed to development. Modi has been doing everything, irrespective of party politics, and helping all states to develop.”
Manjhi said he was comfortable with the BJP. “For me, the BJP is not communal.”
Manjhi, however, warned that he would oppose any attempt by the BJP to scrap article 370 of the constitution which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
“Similarly, if the Modi government tries to implement a common civil code, it will threaten the unity of the country.”
But he said he supported RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s appeal to review the reservation policy. “A review will help us. In fact reservation should be based on socio- educational category,” Manjhi said.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at email@example.com)