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Manjhi issues whip in favour of NDA after CPI(ML)L leader meets him ahead of trust vote

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Patna, Feb 10 (PTI) Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Saturday said he issued a whip asking MLAs of his Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) to vote in favour of the ruling NDA during its confidence vote on February 12.

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The HAM founder's announcement came shortly after CPI(ML) Liberation legislature party leader Mehboob Alam, a key figure in opposition 'Mahagathbandhan', met Manjhi at his residence, raising many eyebrows.

“All four MLAs of my party will vote in favour of the Nitish Kumar government. Although it was not required, a whip has been issued to dispel the confusion that has been created by those chasing headlines and TRP,” said Manjhi.

He said the NDA stood consolidated behind the “towering” leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also expressed his gratitude towards Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the JD(U) president, for helping him occupy the state’s highest seat of power in 2014.

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“I have always been unflinching in my loyalty towards my benefactors, be it Narendra Modi or Nitish Kumar. I parted ways a few months back with Kumar only because of his brusque ultimatum that I either merge my party with his JD(U) or leave”, said Manjhi, recalling his exit from Mahagathbandhan, which he had joined expressing solidarity with the chief minister.

Manjhi’s son Santosh had to give up his ministerial berth as a result of the party’s exit from Mahagathbandhan.

Though he is now back in the NDA cabinet, the HAM founder had recently caused a flutter claiming that he had resisted the temptation of the offer of the chief minister’s post from the RJD, in exchange for switching over.

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However, the septuagenarian made it clear that he was not giving the RJD’s alleged offer any consideration.

“There is a saying in my village that the neo-rich are more dangerous than the traditional elite. I have no intention of going with them (RJD),” Manji said.

Manjhi, who had quit the JD(U) in 2015 to float HAM, also dismissed rumours of unease in the chief minister’s party over the supremo’s abrupt return to the NDA and speculations that it could cast a shadow on the trust vote.

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“All MLAs of the NDA bloc, be they from JD(U), BJP or HAM, are intact. The alliance enjoys a comfortable majority. It will easily win the trust vote and also elect a new Speaker,” asserted Manjhi.

He also downplayed the visit of Alam, saying “I am one of the seniormost members of the assembly and, therefore, fellow MLAs do keep dropping in to discuss social and political issues. Do not try to read much into it”.

Earlier, Alam had told reporters: “Manjhi ji is our guardian, a senior leader whom we keep meeting regularly. Of late, he has not been keeping well. So I came and was glad to see that now he is better”.

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When asked whether they had tea, the Left leader remarked in a jocular vein: “Yes, we had tea, we also had coffee. Manjhi is in high spirits and he will play a good game”.

Notably, “game” has become a buzzword in Bihar’s political circles ever since RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who lost the deputy chief minister’s post as a result of his boss Nitish Kumar’s volte-face, declared that the “game is still on.” Speculations are rife that Yadav’s father Lalu Prasad, the RJD supremo, would put to use his resourcefulness to turn the tables on the NDA during the trust vote.

However, Alam hastened to add that he had used the word “game” in jest.

“We are not engaged in any underhand tactics,” he said. PTI NAC BDC NN

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