A year-old media byte has come back to haunt former Bihar CM and newly appointed Union minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut has slammed the BJP-led NDA for appointing Manjhi as a Union minister over his comments purportedly against Lord Ram. In a post on X, Sanjay Raut pointed out that Manjhi had once called Lord Ram mythical and asked the BJP if Raavan was better than Ram.    

“Jitan Ram Manjhi, who called Lord Ram imaginary, has been made a minister by Modi. We ask the BJP if it believes that Lord Ram is mythical. Is Ramayan a myth? Was Raavan better than Ram,” Sanjay Raut posted on X. Manjhi was handed the Cabinet portfolios of Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises on Monday.

Raut’s post seemed to point to a 2023 media interaction of Jitan Ram Manjhi in which he could be heard saying that Lord Ram is an imaginary character in the Ramayan and injustice had been meted out to Raavan. Manjhi was then part of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, or Grand Alliance, in Bihar, then composed of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM), and the Congress and the Left. He sought to defend the then Bihar Education Minister Chandrashekhar, who had stirred up a controversy in 2023 by likening the Ramchartmanas to poison.

This was met by severe opposition by the BJP, which was in the Opposition then. BJP MPs sought to chant Hanuman Chalisa on the assembly floor. Responding to a question on this, Manjhi said: “This is not right… A decorum should be maintained in the assembly… Raavan was an intellectual. He was hardworking and had been wronged… Be it Ram or Raavan, I believe both are fictitious. It’s not right to talk about imagination. They should talk about poverty and other problems.”

“If we talk about the story [of Ramayan], Raavan was more hardworking than Ram… The story is imaginary,” Jitan Ram Manjhi could be heard saying in the byte.

After the Opposition bloc was formed, Jitan Ram Manjhi quit the Opposition alliance, of which Nitish Kumar was also a part. Soon after HAM’s exit, Nitish accused him of “spying” on the Oppposition for the BJP and termed his exit as “good riddance”. However, Nitish himself quit the Opposition alliance a few months later and joined the BJP-led NDA as did Manjhi.

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