Amidst efforts to forge a broader unity in "mahagatbandhan" to take on NDA in the upcoming general elections, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has asserted that his Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) was ready to contest 20 out of the 40 seats in the state.
The mahagatbandhan in Bihar is piloted by RJD. Congress, Left parties and HAM are part of the proposed coalition.
The statement by Manjhi made a day ago drew snide remarks from the ruling JD(U)-BJP combine even as the HAM, which has only one MLA and is yet to open its account in the Parliament, insisted that the former chief minister was being quoted out of context.
With the issue kicking a political controversy, the HAM on Monday sought to play down the issue saying "a wrong picture was unfortunately highlighted."
After the conclusion of our partys two-day national executive, Manjhi was asked by some journalists how many seats HAM wanted to contest in the Lok Sabha polls. He replied that the party had a good presence in 20 out of the 40 seats and if given tickets in these he could guarantee a 90 per cent strike rate, HAM spokesman Danish Rizwan told PTI.
He, however, added Manjhi had made clear, in the same breath, that readiness of the party did not mean we are going to demand as many seats. If our allies Congress or RJD
wanted to contest any of these, then our party could use its political standing to ensure their victory as well.
Unfortunately, only one part of Manjhis statement giving a wrong picture was highlighted, Rizwan claimed.
Nonetheless, JD(U) spokesman Sanjay Singh took a swipe at the HAM president, saying he did not remain loyal to Nitish Kumar. Now he is showing his character to the RJD-Congress combine. Here is a manjhi (literally meaning a boatman) who is out to rock the boat.
BJP leaders like ministers Vinod Narayan Jha and Prem Kumar and MLA Nitin Nabin remarked that after quitting the NDA, the HAM leader was playing 20-20 cricket in the opposition combine.
Manjhi is a former confidant of Kumar, whom he replaced as chief minister in 2014 when the latter stepped down owning moral responsibility for the drubbing received by the JD(U) in the Lok Sabha polls.
However, he rebelled against his mentor upon being asked to make way for the latters return a few months later, and floated his own party soon after stepping down as Chief Minister and quitting the JD(U). Although he started off as an NDA constituent, Manjhi quit the BJP-led coalition earlier this year.
Within weeks of joining the RJD-Congress combine, Manjhi secured a seat in the legislative council for his son Santosh who got elected to the upper house by virtue of the Rashtriya Janata Dals huge presence in the state assembly.
Meanwhile, Congress MLC Prem Chand Mishra and RJD spokesman Mrityunjay Tiwari ruled out the possibility of any turmoil within the alliance on account of Manjhis remarks.
Leaders tend to say many things in front of their supporters only to rouse enthusiasm. Let the NDA set its own house in order, they said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)