Bihar’s ruling mahagathbandhan is set to suffer another blow with Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) patron Jitan Ram Manjhi’s son Santosh Kumar Suman resigning from the state cabinet on Tuesday (13 June) morning.
Suman, a member of the state legislative council, was the minister in charge of minor irrigation and welfare of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
Accompanied by his father, he handed over his resignation letter to senior Janata Dal (United) leader and state finance minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary.
The HAM has four MLAs and Manjhi has a loyal following among the most backward castes. He belongs to the extremely backward Musahar caste.
After his resignation, Suman told mediapersons that he left the cabinet in order to “protect the existence” of his party. The JD(U), he revealed, had been pressuring his party (HAM) to merge with it.
“Such a merger is not acceptable to us. The JD(U) is acting like a big brother and bully, and trying to decimate us. I have come out of the ministry in order to protect the distinct identity of our party,” he said.
This seems to be poetic justice for JD(U) chairperson and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who severed his ties with the BJP in August year alleging that the BJP was trying to marginalise and ultimately decimate his party.
Political observers say it is only a matter of time before the HAM walks out of the RJD-led mahagathbandhan where the JD(U) is a junior partner.
This is the third consecutive blow to the JD(U) this year. In February, senior party leader and former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha left the JD(U) following serious differences with Nitish Kumar.
He floated his own political party — the Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal (RLJD) — which is expected to become a constituent of the BJP-led NDA.
Upendra Kushwaha has a large following among the largely agrarian Kushwaha community which is listed under the ‘Other Backward Classes’ (OBC) category.
Last month, former JD(U) national president Ram Chandra Prasad Singh resigned from the party following serious differences with Nitish Kumar. Singh, a former IAS officer who was close to Kumar, was also the Union Minister of Steel under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He was forced to step down from the Union cabinet in July last year after he was denied a third consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha by his party.
He had an ugly parting of ways from the JD(U) in early-August last year after some JD(U) functionaries levelled allegations of corruption against him and his family members.
Singh, who belongs to the OBC Kurmi caste (like Nitish Kumar), joined the BJP last month.
The BJP welcomed HAM leader Suman’s resignation from the state cabinet.
“The HAM will be comfortable as a constituent of the NDA since the BJP respects Dalits, backwards and all communities. Everyone knows that the mahagathbandhan is a sinking ship and more people and parties will desert it,” said Bihar Assembly’s leader of opposition and senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Sinha.
Another prominent politician — Mukesh Sahani — who had founded the Vikashsheel Insaan Party (VIP) is also set to join the BJP soon. Sahani has a large following among the Nishad (boatmen) community that forms a sizable chunk of Bihar’s electorate.
The BJP also has the support of both the factions of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) which has a large following among the Dusadhs, a Dalit community which forms nearly 5 per cent of Bihar’s electorate.
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