Betrayal is one of the dominant poll narratives in Lok Sabha election in Bihar that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar frequently faces from the Opposition and his friend turned foe Sharad Yadav for allegedly “betraying the mandate of people” after he switched sides from the RJD-Congress grand alliance to BJP.
Kumar has tried to wriggle out of this “betrayer” branding by throwing the ball in the NDA’s court, slamming its allies like former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and former Speaker of Bihar Assembly Uday Narayan Choudhury (another leader from Mushhar community) and reminding people that the duo nurtured by him joined the “other side”.
Building a victim narrative of “whosoever I projected damaged me”, Kumar said, “to which places these people went, leaving my party. The person whom I twice made the Speaker of Bihar Assembly left me. One of them (Jitan Ram Manjhi) was made CM by me. I did so much for them. If they did not remain loyal to me, they are not going to remain loyal to you.”
That Nitish Kumar does not forgive those who betray him easily is well-known in political circles and the Chief Minister is up to prove it more than anywhere else in Gaya Parliamentary seat, where Jitan Ram Manjhi, propped by him as CM in 2014, is the candidate from the Opposition grand alliance. When Nitish wanted to become CM again, Manjhi refused to oblige and after a bitter war of words, joined NDA in 2015 assembly elections, berating Nitish as anti-Dalit. At that Nitish had formed a grand alliance with Congress and RJD against NDA.
Uday Narayan Choudhury joined hands with rebel Sharad Yadav, when the latter opposed Nitish Kumar’s decision to junk the secular grand alliance and hitch his wagon to BJP again in 2017. Uday Narayan Choudhury was made JDU state chief in the past and served as Speaker twice in 2005 and 2010, a first in Bihar. When Yadav parted ways with Nitish, Choudhury openly revolted against Nitish.
Kumar, who by creating a Mahadalit Commission, had endeared himself to anti-Paswan Dalits in the state, was the one who made Manjhi the tallest Mushhar leader by making him CM. So he is keen to ensure the defeat of the former CM in the latter’s own home district.
Nitish seeks ‘majdoori’
Kumar has addressed close to nine public meetings in Gaya, which is one of the 40 Parliamentary seats of Bihar in which both Mushhar and Kushwahas alias Koiris (to which Upendra Kushwaha belong) dominate.
On Monday, while addressing a rally in Wajirganj, the Bihar Chief Minister not only recalled how he made Mountain Man Dashrath Manjhi (a mahadalit mushhar) sit on his CM chair but also how he made “even the other (Jitan Ram Manjhi) Chief Minister.
And then he sought from the people the “majdoori” (wage) for 13 years of service done by him to people of Bihar saying “your vote for Vijay Manjhi (JD-U’s candidate) is my wage. Will you give it to me?”
Ironically, when Nitish had junked the grand alliance, former JDU President Sharad Yadav had launched a campaign against “betrayal” of the Bihar Chief Minister to the mandate given by the people to the secular alliance and top Opposition leaders in the national capital had accused him of “cheating” people. At the height of the row, when a tv journo had asked a Bihar resident about Nitish betraying the mandate, he had got the answer: “Neta to Neta ko dhokha deta hi rahta hai, Janata to dhoka nahin dena chaahiye (politicians keep on betraying politicians. They should not betray people in fact.)
But then in politics when power is at stake, the ‘dhokha’ is not taken so easily and hence the political battle in Gaya has become a sort of prestige battle between CM Nitish Kumar and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi.