Patna: Calling himself the "most popular campaigner" among the BJP's allies in Bihar polls, mahadalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi today asserted his party's strike rate will be better than all other NDA constituents.
He said the BJP-led alliance should have given him more seats as people "everywhere want to see me".
With the polls being seen a close contest between the NDA and the grand alliance of JD(U)-RJD-Congress, Manjhi said his party would have won over 35 seats if it was given 40 to contest and only time will tell if the BJP-led coalition would regret the decision of allotting his Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) only 21 seats.
Manjhi claimed such is his popularity among the poor that LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, another prominent dalit leader of Bihar, whose clout among the crucial Scheduled Castes voters he had questioned some time back, had to "request" him to address an election meeting by telephone in Alauli, where his brother and state LJP chief Pashupati Paras is in the fray.
In an interview to PTI during his hectic campaign, which he noted was more for allies than his own party, the former chief minister and HAM(S) leader claimed the grand alliance had fragmented like a "piece of broken glass" and the NDA will get two-thirds majority in the election in which "we are facing no challenge".
"My strike rate will be better than any other party, including BJP. The reason is that there is a strong sentiment in my support among the poor for the work I had started and which was stopped by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Now they want to avenge it.
"They (BJP) should have sacrificed more seats, but I accepted this offer (21 seats) because I had already promised them unconditional support.
"Now I am also campaigning for them because of my appeal. Their own leaders tell me that 'if you go to all 243 seats and merely show your face we will benefit'. So I ask them why did not you think so while giving me seats and today you are pestering me. After all, I have to campaign for my own party and other allies too," Manjhi said.
Asked if he saw himself as the most popular NDA leader except for top BJP guns like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, "Of course....People want to see my face everywhere." Out of the 40-45 rallies he has already addressed, only 10-12 was for his party's nominees, he noted.
"Big leaders are coming, so are actors. As far as I am concerned there is a lot of demand for me among the poor, which even they (BJP and allies) acknowledge," he said.
Asked if the NDA will regret giving him only 21 seats as many are predicting a close race between the two rival combinations, he said, "Only time will tell. As of now, we are working to win as many seats as possible.
Muslims, he said, will not vote for BJP but they will for his candidates because of the work he had done for them. Manjhi termed the anti-NDA alliance as "opportunist" and said people have realised they were sticking together just for the sake of power and will get back at each other later.
"Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) has left them. Tariq Anwar (NCP) is gone. Arvind Kejriwal is not campaigning for them. What does it mean? It means their credibility is gone and they understand there is no support for the grand alliance in Bihar. Wind is blowing in our direction and it will pick up more pace in the coming days," he said.
Lashing out at his mentor-turned-adversary Nitish Kumar, Manjhi said he had done nothing but only "deceived" the mahadalits, who had supported JD(U) in the past but are being wooed by the HAM leader.
Taking a dig at Kumar over his projection as the chief ministerial candidate by the grand alliance, he said NDA had many capable leaders, while the rival combine had no other face but that of the JD(U) leader.
"Where there is no tree, people call cactus a tree," he said, and described Kumar as a "one-eyed" man in a crowd of blind people.
He claimed the row over beef and reservation will have no impact on Bihar polls, saying "Lalu and Nitish are always looking for controversies as they had no positive agenda".
The killing of a Muslim man in Dadri over rumours that he had eaten and stored beef was "accidental" and not a "communal murder," he said.