Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Friday accused Hindustani Awam Morcha Secular (HAMS) founder Jitan Ram Manjhi of spying on the Grand Alliance for the BJP.
The chief minister asserted that this was the reason he gave Manjhi an option to either merge his party with the Janata Dal United (JDU) or quit the ruling alliance.
“I had asked Manjhi to either merge his party with the JDU or quit the alliance. He was continuously in touch with the BJP and had recently met its leaders and was passing on information about us to them. He did not accept the merger proposal and quit. He would have continued with it had he stayed with us,” Nitish said.
“A meeting of the Opposition parties of the country is going to be held in Patna on June 23 and he wanted to participate in it. All the parties would have discussed their own stand at the conclave. The BJP would have come to know everything had they (Manjhi and other HAMS leaders) remained with us,” Nitish added.
The chief minister was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the swearing-in ceremony of JDU MLA Ratnesh Sada as a minister. He is filling the position that had fallen vacant with the resignation of Manjhi’s son Santosh Kumar Suman from the cabinet on Tuesday. Sada hails from the same Musahar (rat-catchers) caste as Suman.
Suman, who was a Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe welfare minister, had said he left the cabinet for the sake of the survival of his party because Nitish was putting pressure to merge HAMS with the JDU.
Nitish reminisced how he had always honoured and promoted Manjhi, made him the chief minister in 2014, and had taken along HAMS in the 2020 Assembly elections, inducting Suman as a minister.
Nitish also used the occasion to clarify his remarks at a government function earlier this week that Lok Sabha elections could be held later this year.
“The process for the unity of the Opposition has started. They (the BJP-led Union government) could feel that we might launch a united movement in the coming days, which would lead to much damage to them. So they can go for the Lok Sabha elections before 2024. There is always a possibility of this and I have already alerted all the parties that they could win only if they contest together,” Nitish said.
Pointing out that it was the prerogative of the Union government to advance the general elections, Nitish said it had happened during the tenure of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
“The general elections were held around three to four months ahead of the schedule, though Vajpayee did not want it,” Nitish said. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) trounced the NDA in 2004.
Manjhi held a news conference after Nitish’s remarks and announced that his party had withdrawn its support to the Grand Alliance. He expressed relief that Nitish’s statement released him from the promise to always support him and the JDU.