Bihar Assembly election is months away but it is still getting all the attention from political parties. One thing is crystal clear that JD(U) and RJD which are major stakeholders in State poll is in awe of the resurging saffron party.
The truth is this headache is not because of BJP's growing might in the State, but it is because Mandal parties are losing their sleep over 'Jitan Ram Manjhi'. Manjhi, who seems to be a riddle to these parties, is being seen as most unpredictable man in the political history of JD(U).
After candid statement from Bihar JD(U) President Basistha Narayan Singh, it is proved now that party is going through rough patches these days as "distance" is growing between the Chief Minister and some of his cabinet colleagues.
"Manjhi should take the initiative to bridge the gap between him and some ministers of his Cabinet as it is his team and he is running the government," Singh said on Tuesday.
Growing differences within party
It is being said that party finds it tough to defend some of Manjhi's controversial statements and he has been told to restrain from such assertions.
Manjhi recently justified transfer of IAS officials in some department as he was not happy with the performance of Road Construction Department (RCD) and some other departments. This didn't augur well among Nitish's loyalists.
RCD ministry is with Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan, a close confidante of former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Lallan and his ministerial colleague P K Shahi wrote a letter to Chief Secretary complaining about the transfer of officers in violation of rules. This is one of the several incidents where both Manjhi's and Nitish's supporters are facing the heat.
Party is in double mind to replace Manjhi
Party is facing tough time and is in confusion about how to solve the 'Manjhi riddle'. With recent assertions, though mostly controversial, Manjhi has consolidated his position on Dalit votes.
If Manjhi will be replaced by Nitish Kumar, this chunk of votes may move to saffron party's kitty. Already battered Nitish's party can't afford to take this blow.
Moreover, experts believe that Manjhi has more clout than Nitish on weaker sections of society, which will really give an edge in the assembly election which is scheduled for this year's end.
Adding to Nitish's cup of woes, Manjhi on Monday said he would prefer his successor as someone who belongs from the Dalit community, though he was duty-bound to back Nitish Kumar's candidature for the CM post.
"A Dalit can think more about plight of the Dalit community and work for their welfare," he said in defence of his line for a Dalit to succeed him in the chief minister's post.
Is BJP wooing controversy child?
Manjhi, who is known as controversy child, recently hit the headlines after he joined mutual admiration club with BJP leader Uma Bharti. Both heaped praise on each other which triggered speculations that the Modi-led BJP is "preying" on the chief minister to counter the combined force of Nitish-Lalu.
"Manjhi, who hails from a poor family, understands the pain of poor and he is a garibo ka messiah (poor peoples' apostle) in true sense," Bharati said after a meeting on flood problem in Bihar.
On her response to problems of flood in Bihar from the rivers of Nepal and Madhya Pradesh, Manjhi said he was immensely impressed and satisfied with the approach of the minister towards the problem. This display of bonhomie with BJP is not new for Manjhi as he had also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past.
Recently, BJP president Amit Shah targetted Janata Dal forces Lalu-Nitish, but didn't utter a single word against Bihar CM. It is being said that Manjhi will meet Modi in Delhi, when Prime Minister will address CM meet before the Budget session, though no official confirmation has been made about the same.
What is BJP's plan?
Reportedly, BJP is wooing Manjhi to defang the united force of RJD-JDU in the run up to Assembly election in the State. Burying the hatchet, bete noire RJD-JDU recently decided to come together to stop the 'vijay rath' of BJP in the state.
This unison was justified by saying that they don't want communal forces to thrive in the country and that is why they joined hands even if they had to compromise on their ideologies.
BJP is planning to use 'Manjhi card' against Lalu and Nitish. With the help of incumbent Bihar CM, the saffron party is eying to make an inroad into their loyal vote bank.