About Jitan Ram Manjhi
Veteran politician and a prominent leader of maha-Dalit community, Jitan Ram Manjhi served as the 23rd Chief Minister of Bihar. Earlier, he was elected as an MLA from the Makhdoompur Assembly constituency of the Jehanabad district of the state in 2010 and was minister for SC and ST in the Nitish Kumar government, before being sworn in as the Chief Minister of the tate on 20 May 2014. Manjhi left office on 22 February 2015 and was replaced by his predecessor Nitish Kumar.
Early Life of Jitan Ram Manjhi
Born on 6 October 1944 to Ramjit Ram Manjhi and Sukri Devi in Mahakar Village of Gaya district in Bihar, Manjhi graduated from the Gaya College affiliated to the Magadh University, Bodhgaya in 1967. His parents were farmers. Manjhi worked with the telephone exchange in Gaya, before venturing into politics. He is married to Shanti Devi and has two sons and five daughters. Considered as a prominent leader of the Dalit community in the state, Manjhi himself belongs to most backward Musahar caste.
Political Career of Jitan Ram Manjhi
Jitan Ram Manjhi is the founder and chief of the newly formed political party called Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM). Manjhi used to be a Janata Dal- (United) member before he was expelled and stripped off the primary membership by the party high-command following his feud with Nitish Kumar. Though, Kumar himself picked up Manjhi to replace him as the Chief Minister of the state when the former decided to resign, accepting moral responsibility for his party’s humiliating defeat in the state in the 2014 general elections, as JD (U) ended-up winning only two seats. However, Kumar’s resignation and Manjhi’s selection for the Chief Minister’s post was seen as an effort of garnering more Dalit votes in the state, keeping an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections in the state in 2015.
As the 23rd Chief Minister of Bihar, Manjhi was the third Dalit who reached up to this post in the state after Bhola Paswan Shashtri and Ram Sundar Das. Earlier till the year 1990, Manjhi was a member of Congress Party, and later he joined the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). On the Congress party ticket, he has been anMLA from 1980 to 1990 and on RJD ticket he was anMLA from 1996 to 2005. In 2005, he joined JD (U) and remained with the party for the next ten years.
During his political journey, he has been minister in various governments and apart from working in the Cabinet of Nitish Kumar, he has worked with several other Chief Ministers including Bindeshwari Dubey, Chandrashekhar Singh, Jagannath Mishra, Satyendra Narayan Singh, Laloo Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi.
He has also been an MLA from various constituencies of the state. In 2005, he was elected as an MLA from Barachatti and in 2010 from the Makhdumpur constituency.
However, his elevation as Chief Minister was criticised by several political heavyweights in the state. For example, Sushil Kumar Modi, who is a leader of opposition in the Bihar State Assembly, termed Manjhi as a puppet Chief Minister, controlled by Nitish Kumar.
Jitan Ram Manjhi's Controversial Remarks
Apart from being a leader of maha-Dalit community, Manjhi is also known for his several statements that have stirred controversies as most of them made headlines in the media.
For example, in 2008, when Bihar was struggling with food crisis, Manjhi had advocated eating rats, saying that rats cause damage to food grains and that there was no harm in eating them, since rats and chickens have equal nutritional value. Manjhi himself belongs to Musahar caste in which rat-catching for food is common.
He delivered another controversial statement, when he said, speaking to people in the Bettiah district located 300 km north-west of Patna, “Upper caste people are foreigners and only tribals and Dalits are indigenous people”, a statement which even his party men had criticised.
At the Mahakar village in Gaya, while making an attempt to gear up Dalits for 2015 Assembly elections in Bihar, he said that if all the Dalits and tribals who constitute 22 per cent of the population in Gaya District come together and make a single bloc then no one can stop a Dalit from continuing as the Chief Minister of the state.
During another speech, he had commented that his government was ready to pardon those small-scale traders who indulge in black marketing and hoarding of food grains as their actions were a means to provide food and education to their children that can be considered a 'noble cause'.
In another incident, he questioned the morality of women whose husbands had to leave Bihar to work.
Founding of Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM)
Following a number of controversies sparked off by Manjhi during his reign as Chief Minister, his predecessor Nitish Kumar asked him to step down from the post and make way for him. Manjhi refused to pay any heed to Kumar. Manjhi and his seven loyal ministers advocated the move to dissolve the Bihar state legislative assembly and hold fresh elections. On the other hand, 21 other ministers who supported Nitish chose him the leader of the House and thus the Chief Minister of the state. This was followed by the sacking of Jitan Manjhi as the Chief of government and also as a JD (U) member.
Strategy for 2015 Bihar Assembly Elections
Nitish Kumar assumed the Chief Minister’s office again on 22 February 2015. Six days later Manjhi announced that he would form a new political party and contest the upcoming Bihar assembly elections. Manjhi officially formed the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) on 8 May 2015, which was recognised as a political party by the Election Commission of India in July 2015. Manjhi has already made it clear that his party would contest the Bihar legislative assembly elections in alliance with the BJP and against the grand alliance of JD (U), RJD, SP, NCP and the INC.
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Last Updated on June 24, 2020