Manjhi, first Mahadalit CM of Bihar

Manjhi, first Mahadalit CM of Bihar

Sixty eight-year-old Jitan Ram Manjhi was sworn in as the 23rd chief minister of Bihar here on Tuesday evening. Seventeen other ministers, including two independents, took the oath of office at the Raj Bhavan.

Most of the ministers sworn in by Governor D Y Patil were part of the previous Nitish Kumar cabinet. This includes Vijay Choudhary, Narendra Singh, Vijyendra Yadav, Nitish Mishra, Shyam Razak, Lesi Singh and others. 

The two new faces in the Manjhi ministry are Dularchand Goswami and Binay Bihari, the two independents, who stood by Nitish through thick and thin.

Though Bihar has seen Dalit leaders like Bhola Paswan Shastri, Karpoori Thakur and Ram Sundar Das as chief ministers, Manjhi is the first leader from the Mahadalit community (poorest among the Dalits) to head the state.

Belonging to the lowliest of the low social groups–Mushahars, rat-eating impoverished Mahadalit caste–Manjhi started his political journey as a Congress MLA from Fatehpur in 1980. 

He won the 1985 polls, too, and became Minister of State for welfare in the Congress government headed by Bindeshwari Dubey. In the same year, Nitish won his first election. Prior to this, Nitish had never won a Lok Sabha poll nor an Assembly election.

Little did Manjhi, then a minister, know that Nitish, who made his debut in the Assembly, would some day make way for him for the Bihar chief minister’s post.
 Nearly 30 years after they first met, Nitish has given the state its first Mahadalit chief minister.

“Gandhiji talked about empowering the last man. Today his dream has come true as we have a chief minister from the most deprived section,” said Nitish, who said he would continue to guide the new regime.

Meanwhile, the BJP has vehemently criticised Nitish for foisting a “weak person” as the chief minister. The party also assailed the Janata Dal (United) strongman for trying to remote control the new government. 

“Nitish has found a Manmohan Singh in Bihar and will run the government just like Sonia Gandhi,” said leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav.

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