Former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Saturday accused the RJD, helming the five-party Grand Alliance of which his Hindustani Awam Morcha is a part, of adopting a policy of 'ekla chalo' (march alone) and expressed fear that it could prevent the opposition from giving a good fight to the ruling NDA in the assembly polls due later this year.
Manjhi, at whose official residence here a meeting late Friday night with other Grand Alliance partners such as RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha and VIP founder Mukesh Sahni has fueled speculations, also berated Lalu Prasad Yadav's party for its proposed 'thaali bajao' (beat utensils) program on Sunday when Union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to sound the poll bugle for the BJP with a virtual rally.
Manjhi, however, denied that there were any fissures in the Grand Alliance.
"The Grand Alliance is intact. Leaders of parties in the opposition, including those not in the coalition, do meet each other frequently and it would not be proper to jump to any conclusions," insisted Manjhi.
However, he added that the RJD seems to have embarked upon a policy of 'ekla chalo' and that the issue was taken up for discussion as it may come in the way of posing a credible challenge to the NDA government at the Centre.
"The Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Nitish Kumar regime in the state have failed to live up to the expectations of the people. We would be squandering the opportunity before us if we fail to put up a united fight, " he said.
Manjhi, who quit the NDA and joined the RJD-led front two years ago, expressed hope that vested interests will give way to the larger interest of defeating the NDA, by the time assembly polls are announced in the state.
"The RJD has decided to beat utensils on Sunday in protest against Amit Shah's rally. Such theatrics may not find much traction among the people. Had the party taken other coalition partners on board and devised a common strategy, it would have been far more effective," he added.
The septuagenarian has been miffed over the manner in which the RJD declared Tejashwi Yadav, more than 40 years his junior, its Chief Ministerial candidate without broaching the matter with allies and repeated slights from leaders of the party headed by Lalu Prasad who keep reminding him that they had helped Manjhi's son, who is the sole MLA of his party, in getting elected to the legislative council.
RJD spokesman Mrityunjay Tiwari sought to make light of the meeting and asserted that things will fall in place once the elections are announced.
"There is no dispute regarding the fact that RJD is the largest constituent of the Grand Alliance. In the run-up to elections, leaders of parties do keep meeting each other. Not much should be read into such incidents," he said.
The Congress -- the fifth constituent of the Grand Alliance and the oldest ally of the RJD -- has maintained a studied silence over the rumblings within the coalition though a section of the party is known to be uneasy with the RJD's domineering ways which it tends to get away with by virtue of close personal ties between Lalu Prasad and Sonia Gandhi.
Meanwhile, JD(U) spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan Prasad predicted that the five-party coalition, which was drubbed in the Lok Sabha elections last year, will come apart by the time poll schedule for the state assembly is announced.
"It appears certain that the so-called Grand Alliance will disintegrate before the assembly elections. We have learnt that Upendra Kushwaha is going to meet top leaders of the Congress in Delhi. Clearly, non-acceptance of Tejashwi Yadav's leadership among other alliance partners has reached a flash-point," Prasad said.(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - PTI)