Former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi today joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar, months before elections. His former rival Nitish Kumar reportedly played a key role in bringing him back to his side.
Mr Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) was a key ally of Lalu Yadav and had contested the 2019 national election as part of the opposition alliance.
His electoral performance has been poor; his party could win only one seat in the 2015 assembly polls as a BJP ally and drew a blank in the 2019 elections as an RJD-Congress ally.
"We have forged an alliance with the Janata Dal (United) and have become a part of the NDA. There has been no discussion about seat-sharing in the Bihar assembly election," Jitan Ram Manjhi told reporters.
Mr Manjhi ended his two-year partnership with Lalu Yadav and the Congress last month.
Over the past few weeks, he had been meeting Nitish Kumar, his one-time bete noire and his reason for quitting the JDU. He walked out in 2015 after being forced to quit as Chief Minister to make way for Nitish Kumar, who had installed him in the first place.
Reports suggest Mr Manjhi wants his party to contest around 15 to 20 of Bihar's 243 seas, mostly in the Magadh region, his home turf. Nitish Kumar is reportedly ready to give it around nine.
But Mr Manjhi's entry may cause disaffection in the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which is already at odds with Nitish Kumar. Both the HAM and LJP have a similar support base, Dalits, which constitute over 16 per cent of the electorate. About 40 seats are reserved for them.
Chirag Paswan, who has frequently targeted Nitish Kumar in the past months, has called a meeting of the LJP next week.
Mr Manjhi has a history of attacking the LJP leadership; the LJP believes that Nitish Kumar brought him in to queer the pitch for the Paswans.