Manjhi likely to join NDA, BJP initiates talks with allies

New Delhi,  (IANS) In a bid to forge a “grand alliance” against the JD-U, the RJD and the Congress combine for the upcoming Bihar assembly polls, the BJP on Thursday succeeded in wooing former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.

Manjhi on Thursday vowed his commitment to defeat Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad combine and indicated to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

“We will fight together to stop Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad,” Manjhi told reporters here after meeting BJP president Amit Shah.

He, however, said no decision has been made on seat sharing.

“We only discussed in the meeting how to defeat them and it is possible only we fight together. The only issue for us is to defeat the alliance of Lalu ji and Nitish,” Manjhi said.

With LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, already in the NDA, the addition of Manjhi will benefit the alliance.

A consolidation of the Dalit, upper caste, OBC vote together, would make it difficult for the JD-U and the RJD, a senior BJP leader from Bihar said wishing to be identified.

Manjhi launched the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) after being expelled from the Janata Dal-United (JD-U).

“Failure of the alliance with the HAM would have created much more adverse situation for BJP,” said the BJP leader. Manjhi is now a discernible and strong pole of Mahadalit politics in Bihar, he added.

Earlier in the day, BJP president Shah held a meeting with Rashtriya Lok Samata Party president Upendra Kushwaha.

The meeting between Shah and Kushwaha, also the minister of state for human resource development, was attended by union minister Dharmendra Pradhan and general secretary in-charge of the BJP in Bihar Bhupendra Yadav.

After the 45-minute meeting, Kushwaha told reporters that initial-level talks have begun between the NDA allies in Bihar.

“Election strategy was discussed in the meeting. There was no talk on seat sharing as there is no rigidity from any side. It will be finalised soon. We will fight Bihar elections together,” said Kushwaha.

Sources said a discussion over projection of the chief ministerial candidate was also discussed in the meeting.

Kushwaha, whose party won three of the four Lok Sabha seats allotted in the 2014 general elections, has demanded 35 seats in the assembly polls.

“Election for 24 seats of MLC is due in Bihar. We have demanded three seats and hope to get two. This could form the basis for seat-sharing for assembly elections too,” a close aide of Kushwaha told IANS.

Kushwaha will convene the national executive of the RLSP on June 20-21 to chalk out their election strategy.

Shah is also expected to meet union minister Ram Vilas Paswan in the coming days, whose Lok Janshakti Party has been demanding 50 seats.

Bihar goes to the polls later this year.

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