Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Wednesday said he was in favour of Congress president Rahul Gandhi becoming the next prime minister in the event of opposition "Mahagathbandhan" coming to power after the Lok Sabha polls.
Before leaving for New Delhi, where he is scheduled to take part in deliberations on seat-sharing among the constituents of Bihar Grand Alliance, the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) president dismissed reports that his party was likely to get only "one or two" seats in the state, which has 40 Lok Sabha constituencies.
"The NDA has made it clear that it would contest the polls with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its face. The Mahagathbandhan or the UPA, call it by whatever name, made no such announcement since there is a general consensus that it should be decided after polls.
"This has not been without precedence. Elections are often fought without parties or alliances projecting a face. But if you ask me about my personal opinion, I feel that Rahul Gandhi should take the top job," Manjhi told reporters here.
His statement could be seen as a move to placate the Congress, after having ruffled many feathers in the party with his recent claim that his four-year-old outfit had a following greater than that of the national party and, as such, deserved to get a share in the Lok Sabha polls.
The former Bihar chief minister, however, dismissed reports which have suggested that his party was unlikely to get more than two seats, saying "all top leaders of the Mahagathbandhan are yet to sit across the table. Speculations at this stage are no better than a wild guess".
"This is the first time when we will discuss our requirements before the top leadership of the Congress. I do not know whether Rahul Gandhi will be present at any of the meetings. May be he will. If not, AICC in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil will certainly be there," Manjhi said.
Talking about his party's stand if offered a share that was less than expected, he replied, "We will work out a compromise formula."
Asked about his possibility of contesting a Lok Sabha seat, he evaded the question, maintaining that "once it becomes clear which of the seats the respective parties are going to get, the decision on candidates will follow".
Speculations have been rife that Manjhi was keen on contesting the Gaya Lok Sabha seat, from where he had fought as a candidate of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) in 2014, but finished third.
There have also been reports that he was being persuaded to contest from Jamui, another reserved seat, which is at present held by Lok Janshakti Party's heir apparent Chirag Paswan.
Polling for the general elections will be held in Bihar in seven phases, starting from April 11 to May 19.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)