Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar lost his cool again in the State Assembly on Thursday and said it was due to his “stupidity” that he had made Jitan Ram Manjhi the Chief Minister of the State. Mr. Manjhi, now president of the Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S), became Chief Minister of the State in May 2014 when he was with Janata Dal (United) and Mr. Kumar had stepped down from the post on moral grounds following his party’s drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Mr. Manjhi, later, said on X (formerly Twitter): “If you [Mr. Kumar] think that you had made me the Chief Minister, it is your mistake. You fled from the chair when JD(U) MLAs started opposing you. You can only attack a Dalit to conceal your impotency and if you have the guts, you can attack Lalan Singh [JD(U) president Rajiv Ranjan Singh] who was orchestrating an ‘operation’ against you”.
HAM-S leader Mr. Manjhi has joined hands with the BJP and his party became a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre after his son Santosh Manjhi resigned from Mr. Kumar’s Cabinet as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Welfare Minister in June 2023. Since then, Mr. Manjhi has been slamming CM Kumar and his government on several issues.
On November 7, after the Bill to raise reservation was tabled in State Assembly, Mr. Kumar had courted controversy on the floor of the House with his remark on the role of women in population-control. The Opposition BJP legislators demanded his resignation and a complaint was also filed against him in a local court in Muzaffarpur. Later, Mr. Kumar had to apologise, and said he “takes back his words”.
On Thursday, tempers flared yet again, when Mr. Manjhi questioned the veracity of the caste survey. “Meri Murkhata ki wajah se yeh mukhyamantri bana. Isko koi sense nahi hai. Yeh bolta rehta hai ki hum mukhyamantri the [It was because of my stupidity that he became the Chief Minister. He doesn’t have any sense. He keeps saying that he was the Chief Minister],” screamed the CM.
Some of Mr. Kumar’s Cabinet colleagues were seen trying to calm him down but their efforts went in vain, as the CM continued with his outburst. He also asked mediapersons sitting in the press gallery on first floor to “know the complete facts as they have been giving a lot of publicity to him [Mr. Manjhi]”. A few moments earlier, Mr. Kumar had thanked all members of the House for passing Bill to raise reservation unanimously.
When some BJP legislators rose to protest against Mr. Kumar, he told them, “This man has been wanting to remain in your company. He wants to become Governor. Please oblige him”. The incensed CM calmed down and took his seat only when Speaker Awadh Bihari Choudhary told him that “he [Mr. Manjhi] had become the Chief Minister only because of your kripa [blessing]”. The House was adjourned soon after.
While speaking to mediapersons outside Assembly premises, Mr. Manjhi said, “I’ll complain against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to the Governor and the Union Home Minister and will demand President’s Rule in the State. Only a couple of days back he had brought shame to the State through his derogatory remarks against women. His repeated misconduct shows he is no more in a sound state of mind and cannot be entrusted to hold such an important post [of CM]”. The BJP legislators were seen standing with Mr. Manjhi in solidarity.
Mr. Manjhi had become Chief Minister of the State in May 2014 when JD(U) faced a humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha election that same year. However, Mr. Manjhi had to step down after nine months as Mr. Kumar became Chief Minister of the State again. Later in 2015, Mr. Manjhi floated HAM-S and contested the 2015 Assembly election as an ally of the NDA but when Mr. Kumar joined hands again with the BJP in 2017, Mr. Manjhi switched his loyalty to Rashtriya Janata Dal–led Mahagatbandhan (Grand Alliance).
Mr. Manjhi returned to NDA fold in 2020 but later in 2022, rejoined the Grand Alliance government with his son Santosh Kumar Suman becoming the SC/ST Welfare Minister in Mr. Kumar’s Cabinet. In June 2023, his son resigned from the Cabinet accusing Mr. Kumar of pressuring him to merge HAM-S with JD(U).