Jitan Ram Manjhi has spent the better part of his four-decades-long political career as a leader of parties in power. From the Congress to the undivided Janata Dal and later its splinter groups – Lalu Yadav’s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JDU – he switched over whenever a new party came to power. The Dalit stalwart has switched sides again – from Tejashwi Yadav-led grand-alliance to the National Democratic Alliance – hoping to share power should the Nitish Kumar-led group win another term in Bihar.
Under the seat-sharing agreement, Mr Manjhi’s party, Hindustani Awam Morcha, will get seats from the Janata Dal United’s quota. He himself is contesting from the Imamganj assembly segment.
Mr Manjhi, a member of the sizeable Musahar community, is one of the most prominent Dalit leaders in Bihar. He was brought back into the NDA – which he quit in 2018 – by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who expects Dalit support because of his presence in the alliance.
The highlight of Mr Manjhi’s career so far has been his nine-month stint as the Bihar chief minister.
In 2014, Nitish Kumar had stepped down from his post, taking responsibility for his party’s dismal show in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Mr Manjhi – then Mr Kumar’s loyalist – was installed as the Chief Minister of the state.
In 2015, when he was asked to resign his post in favour of Mr Kumar, he refused. Forced by the prospects of facing a floor test which he had no chance of winning, he eventually stepped down.
After his fallout with Nitish Kumar, in 2015, he launched his own party and contested the assembly election in partnership with the BJP, which had been on a poll-winning streak. However, the Nitish Kumar-Lalu Yadav partnership thwarted the BJP’s plans of forming a government.
Mr Manjhi joined the opposition alliance in 2019. His party contested and lost three Lok Sabha seats.
Apart from his exploits in politics, the leader is also known for making controversial remarks. In 2014, when he was the chief minister, he said he would “chop off” the hands of those who “play with the lives of the poor”. He had also called upper caste people “foreigners”.