Patna: Asserting that he did not “back-stab” Nitish Kumar, expelled JD(U) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi today said he was prematurely pulled down from the chief minister’s post by Nitish Kumar when he started bringing Mr Kumar’s slogans of uplifting the poor to reality.
Talking to media a day after he resigned as the Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr Manjhi alleged that Mr Kumar was only interested in “giving slogan for the poor and downtrodden”.
Mr Manjhi said a photograph of Nitish Kumar still hangs in his room which reminds him of Mr Kumar championing the cause of the deprived and poor. But he said respect for his mentor would come only if Mr Kumar completes “agenda I have set for genuine welfare of poor and downtrodden” of the society.
Mr Manjhi, who signalled setting up his own outfit, extended good wishes to Mr Kumar who will be taking oath as new Chief Minister of Bihar tomorrow and said he would participate in the oath ceremony at Raj Bhavan.
“I’ll thank Nitish Kumar if he completes the agenda I have set for genuine welfare of poor and downtrodden, otherwise I’ll go to people and unmask him,” Mr Manjhi, who looked relaxed at his One Anne Marg residence, said.
Asked about allegations that he back-stabbed Nitish Kumar who handpicked him for CM’s post, Mr Manjhi said, “Garib khud maar khata hai woh dusro ko kaya peeth me chura marenge (the poor always takes a beating, how can they back stab others”.
Asked if he was planning to join the BJP, Mr Manjhi denied and signaled forming a separate party which would work for the poor.
“I am a man with independent thinking. I’ll walk on the path laid down by myself but take assistance of parties who join me on this path be it the BJP or even Nitish Kumar,” Mr Manjhi said adding he has called a conclave of his supporters in Patna on February 28 to take a decision in accordance with their wishes.
He also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and thanked the BJP for extending support to him.
“Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a big assertion regarding religious tolerance… by this he seems changing ‘charitra’ (character) of BJP,” said Mr Manjhi, who had a one-on-one meeting with the Prime Minister on February 9 during the power struggle with mentor Nitish Kumar.
Some legislators like Janata Dal (United) rebels Rajiv Ranjan and Ravindra Rai, Independent MLA Pawan Jaiswal, Sadhu Yadav, controversial brother-in-law of Lalu Prasad and dissident former JD(U) MP Shivanand Tiwari were with him.
Mr Majhi said poor people for whom he had raised voice were angry and would observe fast tomorrow (when Nitish Kumar takes oath) as protest.
Asked about chances of “home coming” to the JD(U), Mr Manjhi said he did not know the future.
Attacking Rash President Lalu Prasad, Majhi said “when I was made chief minister he (Lalu Prasad) used to hail it saying a Dalit and a Garib has been seated on the high chair of CM. So, how did the things change and he sided with Nitish Kumar in his operation to oust me?”
“Nitish Kumar’s vitriolic about Lalu Prasad are no secret. Their strong bond nowadays is a matter of research,” he said.
Manjhi, who put in his papers before the trust vote was taken apparently for want of required numbers, justified his decision and attributed it to “threat to him and his supporting MLAs from Nitish Kumar camp and biased role of Speaker of Assembly Uday Narayan Choudhary”.
“I still say if secret ballot is ordered even today I have support of 140 MLAs,” Manjhi repeated his yesterday’s assertion.
“I had the majority but I did not want my supporting MLAs to become target of Nitish Kumar camp which would have worked to end their membership or even physically deal with them and resigned to avoid blood letting,” he claimed.
Attacking Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary, a dalit who also hails from his home district of Gaya, he said “by making sitting arrangements in the House for the trust vote yesterday, he had made it clear that he was acting on direction of Nitish Kumar.”
When pointed out that Nitish Kumar government could review decisions taken by him, Mr Manjhi said there was no problem if the new government rectified some of the decisions.
But, if these were brushed aside he would go to people to protest.
Mr Manjhi’s took some big decisions like reserving contract work for SC/ST up to Rs 70 lakh, free electricity to farmers owing up to five acres of land, lowering attendance requirement for school children from 75 per cent to 60 per cent for general category and 55 for SC/ST and including Paswan caste in the Mahadalit category among others.