Win or lose: Bihar's Nitish vs Manjhi war is more prestige than politics

An open support by the BJP to Jitan Ram Manjhi has changed the entire complexion of the ongoing political game in Bihar. However mathematically, even that may not be sufficient for the beleaguered Bihar chief minister to prove his majority on the floor of the House when he moves the motion of confidence on Friday.

It is now obvious that the new found aggression seen in the saffron camp is a determined effort to somehow help Manjhi stay on as Bihar chief minister and keep his predecessor Nitish Kumar away from the office until the Assembly polls are announced officially which are due in six months.

Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. Image courtesy CNN-IBN

Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. Image courtesy CNN-IBN

No one is sure how the drama will unfold on Friday when the Assembly meets. There are doubts whether Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi will be allowed to read his mandatory speech at the beginning of the Budget Session or if there would be unruly disruptions during the proceedings. Questions are even raised if Speaker Uday Naraian Choudhary, who has been accused of bias and violating constitutional norms, will be allowed to conduct proceedings or if the parties concerned will allow an orderly debate on the motion of confidence and allow the trust vote to go through in an orderly fashion. Possibilities of violent scenes are also not ruled out.

For now no one is worried about the procedural aspect, orderly or chaotic. It's more than a prestige battle as the unfolding drama will decide who has the capacity to claim the mantle of martyrdom. At the root of it lie the 26-27 percent of Mahadalit votes (including Paswan or Dushad community which was recently added to the Mahadalit list). Manjhi's performance as chief minister may not have been spectacular but the way Nitish Kumar has sought to forcibly evict him from the post (after first handpicking him) has made Manjhi suddenly emerge as a tall Mahadalit leader. The BJP wants to encash on this sympathy wave towards Manjhi in both in the short term and in the long run. A heightened political drama has suddenly made the state go into a total election mode, which are less than a year away.

"It's a win-win situation for us. It's immaterial whether Manjhi wins or loses the trust vote or prefers to resign after conclusion of debate on the motion of confidence," said a Bihar BJP leader.

The only problem for the BJP, however, is that if it overplays its card in the Bihar assembly or if the Governor is seen not adhering to constitutional norms then it will have to brace for some stiff resistance from the opposition in Parliament. On Nitish's side would be the Congress, SP, RJD, Left and possibly the TMC. The BJP central leadership would be wary of any such confrontations during the upcoming Budget session where it already faces a stiff challenge of getting six ordinances ratified including those on land acquisition and insurance.

After talking to leaders on either side of the political spectrum, Firstpost gathered that the BJP is not averse of Nitish becoming the chief minister in coming days but before that happens it wants to play its own share of political game to "expose" the JD(U) leader's hunger for power. On the other hand, Nitish and his backers, namely Sharad Yadav, RJD chief Lalu Yadav and Congress want to "expose" the BJP for being "hand-in-glove" with a "discredited" Manjhi just to settle scores in a personalised political conflict.

There is little doubt that Nitish wants to reclaim his Sushashan Babu, (good governance) plank. Nitish can only blame himself for losing this plank and get so deeply embroiled in politics of manipulation and manoeuvring of all kinds. He now hopes to get back at the helm and yet again contest elections on governance claims, which gave him in partnership with the BJP, an unprecedented three-fourth majority in the last Assembly polls.

But since then things have changed for him and reclaiming the same glory within such a short span of time might not be easy. And if he succeeds in returning as the chief minister, it won't be easy for him to implement all the announcements made by Manjhi till date. Not only that, Nitish will have to do further explanations when won't be left with much choice but to appoint RJD chief Lalu Prasad's daughter Misa Bharati as the deputy chief minister. This step would immediately put his credentials of running a fair and honest government under the scanner. With the Congress also becoming part of his team, it is doubtful how much help Nitish could exactly extract from them.

Updated Date: Feb 20, 2015 07:12 AM

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