Will the Bihar government headed by Jitan Ram Manjhi be a hit or just a puppet, running on the behest of Nitish Kumar? There are numerous political exigent reasons which are being analysed one after the other. One major analysis among them is to make the government topple-proof. For its entire belligerence against the JDU, the BJP is Extremely cautious about destabilizing the Dalit-led government in a state with 16% Dalit population.
This move would also help Kumar to undercut LJP boss Ram Vilas Paswan’s Dalit based vote bank and prevent the Dalit vote being drifted to BJP, as happened in recent Loksabha polls. By naming Manjhi as his successor, Nitish has played a big gamble. Manjhi is considered more pliable and less assertive than others. In fact, he never handled any important portfolio in any cabinet. The big challenge for the new chief minister is that he is succeeding a leader who has the distinction in revolutionary Bihar development. It became difficult for Nitish Kumar to tackle the growing dissidents after the poll debacle, how would manjhi manage?
Whether he really comes out of the whims of Nitish depends upon his political skills. Many political observers are of the view that by resigning from his post Nitish has pre-empted the rebels’ move to join hands with the BJP. However, he is not very clear whether he really wants to move over to Delhi and fill the vacuum in the opposition leadership created by the decimation of the Congress or stay in Bihar to re-emerge as the likely chief ministerial candidate in the 2015 Bihar vidhan Sabha polls.
He can surely follow Jayalalithaa’s example, but in a different way. After the Supreme Court quashed her appointment, she made the junior most ministers, O Panneerselvam, a first-time MLA, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu in September 2001. However, in March 2002, Panneerselvam resigned as the chief minister and Jayalalithaa was sworn in after the apex court overturned her conviction and she won a by-election from the Andipatti assembly constituency. During his stint as a chief minister, Panneerselvam, the first person from Thevar, a backward caste, to reach this post, was widely criticized for heading a puppet government run by Jayalalithaa.
Only time will tell whether Manjhi emerges as strong as Indira Gandhi, who on being appointed as PM pushed Kamaraj and the Congress Syndicate out who, by getting her installed as the prime minister, wanted to remote control the government from backstage, or ends up becoming Panneerselvam.
By Aditya Jha