Ram Vilas Paswan not leader of Dalits: Manjhi

Patna: Fissures among the BJP’s dalit allies in Bihar came out in the open on Tuesday, as former Bihar chief minister Jitin Ram Manjhi said union minister Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP was neither a leader of Dailits nor had he done anything for them.

Targetting the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief, Manjhi, a Dailit leader who was recently expelled from the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), sought to question Paswan’s credentials to project himself as a Dalit leader, saying: “Ram Vilas Paswan is not the leader of Dalits in Bihar.”

“He (Paswan) has not done anything for Dalits and poorest of the poor,” added Manjhi, the president of the Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM), a part of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alliance, at a press conference here.

Manjhi said: “If Paswan has done anything for them, he should come forward to explain to the people. Paswan should reveal what special he has achieved for Dalits and poor.”

Manjhi expressed his displeasure over Paswan’s recent statement that Manjhi was on trial in the NDA. “Paswan has told about me that Manjhi was on trial in NDA. How can he say this? I am in politics since 1980. I was a legislator, minister and even chief minister for a short period. Is it trial period? On what basis Paswan is a national leader?”

“I am still fighting for the poorest of the poor. Paswan has failed to fight for the poor and hardly bothered to raise the issues related to the downtrodden, marginalised, backwards and poorest of the poor. Not a single day Paswan has demanded rights for them,” Manjhi said.

On Monday, Manjhi accused Paswan of adapting the dynasty politics, saying: “Paswan is promoting his son Chirag Paswan and his brothers within the LJP at the cost of everyone else.”

He said Paswan was only worried about his family, not Dalits.”Most of the LJP’s posts are headed by his son, brothers and son-in law.”

According to leaders close to Manjhi, he targeted Paswan for his alleged bid to reduce his party HAM’s bargaining power in BJP led NDA over seat sharing which is yet to finalise.

Besides, what angered Manjhi that Paswan reportedly claimed that Manjhi may not be able to transfer support of his caste -Mushahar (locally known as rat eater) in favour of the NDA.

Infact, the LJP asked the BJP last week not to give tickets to rebel JD-U legislators who have joined HAM and planning to contest the coming assembly elections.

LJP parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan has told BJP national president Amit Shah to keep such leaders out of the NDA and not give them tickets to contest the assembly polls either as candidates of the BJP or its allies.

Manjhi’s HAM has staked claimed for over 30 seats including 13 sitting legislators (all rebel JD-U) and the LJP has staked claimed for over 50 seats. Another BJP’s ally Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) of union minister Upender Kushwaha is also staking claim for over 40 seats.

However, BJP is not ready to give more than 83 seats to its three allies and likely to contest 170 to 160 seats itself.

On the other hand, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the JD-U have decided to contest 100 seats each, leaving 40 to the Congress and three to the Nationalist Congress Party.