New Delhi: Differences within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) took a dramatic turn on Wednesday after Jitan Ram Manjhi, former chief minister of Bihar and chief of the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), decided to quit the ruling coalition and join the opposition alliance.
With Manjhi joining hands with opposition’s Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) in Bihar, which includes Congress party and Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the development is likely to impact the political dynamics in Bihar ahead of national polls next year and assembly elections in 2020.
There have been strains between HAM and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ever since chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) quit the Grand Alliance to join the NDA last year.
The immediate trigger for Manjhi’s exit was the HAM’s demand for the NDA to field at least one member from his party for the six Rajya Sabha seats in Bihar, elections to which take place on 23 March.
“We will quit the NDA and join the Mahagathbandhan. A formal announcement to this effect will be made later tonight when the reasons for this major decision will also be made public," Manjhi told reporters in Patna on Wednesday morning.
Interestingly, he was accompanied by RJD leaders including Prasad’s sons Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav.
“The hollowness of the claims by the BJP-led NDA about its cohesion stands exposed. We welcome Jitan Ram Manjhi, a father figure and a champion of social justice, to the Mahagathbandhan," Tejashwi Yadav told reporters.
While Manjhi’s absence from NDA in Bihar is a jolt for the BJP-led alliance, similar political tensions are also emerging between the BJP and some of the other political parties who are in alliance with it.
“Today’s development underscores the simmering discontent within the arrogant NDA. Upendra Kushwaha (Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief and Union minister) has expressed his discomfiture in the BJP-led alliance many times. It is time for people like him to take a decision," Tejashwi Yadav said.
Recently, the BJP’s alliance partner in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena, decided to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls alone. Another NDA partner, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh, is also annoyed with the BJP as some of its long-standing demands for the state to be granted special category status and for increased development funding were not met by the Union government in the budget 2018-19.
PTI contributed to this story.