With Manjhi pushed away from NDA, HAM (S) gasps on Bihar’s political edge

Hindustani Awam Morcha (secular) of former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi seems to have been marginalized by its main partners, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United), within the ruling National Democratic Alliance in Bihar. After the defection of the three MPs from the Vikassheel Insaan party to the BJP in March, the HAM(S) also lost its bargaining power within the NDA.

Addressing his party’s national executive meeting last Sunday, Manjhi said being in the NDA as a junior partner of the BJP and JD(U) caused him a “ghutan (suffocation) “.

Manjhi, who has made several U-turns in recent years, has often insisted on the establishment of an NDA coordination committee, which has not been done.
His son Santosh Kumar Manjhi, a member of the MLC (Member of the Legislative Council), is the only HAM(S) minister in the NDA government led by JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar.

HAM(S) represents four MPs, including Manjhi, in the Assembly of 243 member states. In the 2020 Assembly polls, the NDA had left seven seats for the party to contest. In the next MLC polls, the BJP and JD(U) fielded two candidates each, leaving nothing to HAM(S).

HAM(S) spokesman Danish Rizwan told The Indian Express: “During elections, our workers contribute as much as JD(U) and BJP workers. Our leader Jitan Ram Manjhi is campaigning on a grand scale. But when it comes to sharing the seats of the MLC and the Rajya Sabha, our leaders are not taken into account. This discouraged our workers. He also said that the party had already conveyed its dissatisfaction in this regard to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

A veteran socialist leader, Manjhi, who became the CM in 2014 while with the JD(U), aspired to secure a place in the Rajya Sabha or governorship. Hw has been caught in a bind now though.

The HAM(S) could not afford to go over to the opposition camp because the figures would not be enough to form an alternative government. In the “grand alliance” of the opposition, the RJD, the Congress, the CPI and the CPI(ML) together represent 111 deputies. Even if the five deputies of AIMIM join them, the tally of the grand alliance would still be below the majority. The opposition front will lack a majority by a few seats even if the HAM(S) falls into its fold.

Such a scenario leaves HAM(S) no choice but to coexist with the NDA, despite its sidelining. Manjhi also failed to become a leader of the Dalit community, which makes up around 16% of the state’s population.

Manjhi created a waver when he refused to quit the CM chair for Nitish in February 2015. After being forced to resign then, he later launched his own party, HAM(S), but was unsuccessful to extend it. He was unable to pass his first real test in the 2015 Assembly elections when his party was only able to win two seats and then fell out with the NDA. Although he later returned to the NDA after being part of the Grand Alliance for a time, his party’s influence has since waned. HAM(S) survival now continues to be critically dependent on an alliance.

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