New Delhi: Former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Thursday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, further fuelling speculation that he may align with BJP in the upcoming Assembly election even as the Mahadalit leader maintained silence over the issue.
Parrying queries over any pre-poll alliance, he spoke about post-election tie-up and claimed that he would partner with a formation, which did not include Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, his former mentor and now a bitter critic.
Manjhi has launched his own outfit Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), after his unceremonious exit from the post of Chief Minister and JD(U).
Asked about RJD's Lalu Prasad overtures to him to join a grand alliance, which is likely to include Kumar, against BJP, he said a tie-up between Prasad and Kumar is unlikely to work as RJD voters would not support Kumar while the JD(U) leader has a small voter base.
"If there is a need to ally with any party following the election I will go with a formation which does not include Nitish Kumar," he told reporters.
He claimed he met Modi to raise the issue of farmers' plight in Bihar and demanded a CBI inquiry into alleged irregularities in paddy procurement.
Manjhi is being eyed by the BJP-led NDA as well as Prasad as their new ally as the Mahadalit community has the potential of tilting the scale in favour of either of the two alliances.
Many believe that his populist policies when he was the Chief Minister, besides his sacking from the hot seat by JD(U), has generated some sympathy for him in his community even though he remains an untested commodity in the politically crucial state.
Prasad had recently proposed that Manjhi be included in the grand alliance against BJP, inviting sharp response from Kumar.
With PTI inputs