Janata Dal-United National President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses the state-level party workers meeting on preparation for the Legislative Assembly polls, in Patna on Sunday. | ANI
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar | ANI
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New Delhi: With attacks by LJP chief Chirag Paswan increasing on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over Dalit issues and by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav over unemployment, the JD(U) has planned to start an outreach programme — ‘Mission Dalit’ — from the first week of October in all districts.

As part of ‘Mission Dalit’, work done by Nitish in the last 15 years for the crucial Dalit-Mahadalit community will be showcased in booklets and public meetings, with special focus on youth voters.

“The first phase of the campaign has already been completed at the booth level and now from the first week of October, we will start the next phase where work done by the chief minister in the last 15 years and what is his vision for the next five years will be communicated at the district level,” said JD(U) minister Maheshwar Hazari.

“There will be Dalit-Mahadalit sammelan (conferences) at the district level and in the next phase, Dalit workers’ conference will be organised at the state level. No leader has done such massive work for Dalits and Mahadalits, and this needs to be told to people,” he added.

Hazari also said a meeting of all SC/ST MLAs, ministers, former MLAs has been convened on 21 September, which will be held at his residence, to finalise the campaign strategy.


Also read: BJP knows Nitish Kumar isn’t enough. So Sushant Singh Rajput is its invisible ally in Bihar


Eyeing Dalit youths   

During the ‘Nishchay Sambad’ rally on 7 September, Nitish had asked his party’s senior leaders that voters, particularly the yuva voters (who were children when Nitish took over as the CM), need to be reminded about the ‘dark days’ of the Pati-Patni sarkar (Lalu-Rabri regime). 

“Tell the new generation about all the good work done by our government and the actual scenario prevailing in the state before 2005. They were children those days, but now they have crossed the age of 18. It is necessary to inform them, otherwise sab gud gobar ho jayega (all the good deeds will be undone),” Nitish had said in the rally.

During the JD(U)’s ‘Mission Dalit’ campaign, Dalit-Mahadalit youth will be in focus as Tejashwi Yadav and Chirag Paswan are aggressively trying to poach the votes of this segment, said party leaders.

Tejsahwi’s employment card is causing heartburn among JD(U)’s top leadership. This is the reason Nitish had attacked Lalu’s son during the rally by giving out employment figures of his regime.

“Nitish ji is upset by this smear campaign on the issue of unemployment. When Lalu ji was in power, they have given only 90,000 government jobs, but Nitish ji has given 6 lakh government jobs. Leave private sector jobs and other jobs, they were fooling youngsters and this needs to be told. Dalit youths don’t know how many schemes are being run for them,” Ashok Choudhary, state minister for building construction, told ThePrint.

Dalit outreach 

In the last two months, Nitish has taken several measures to consolidate his Dalit-Mahadalit vote bank.

For example, he welcomed former rival Jitan Ram Manjhi into the NDA fold to counter Paswan’s attack and also sent a message to the larger Mahadalit segment, which has been backing Nitish since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, said JD(U) leaders.

Even since he joined the JD(U), Manjhi has been regularly attacking Paswan.

Earlier this month, Paswan demanded that family members of all Dalits, who had been killed in the last 15 years, should be given government jobs and cases related to SC/ST Act should be handed over to a fast-track court. He also demanded that the Nitish government should provide three decimal lands to the SC/ST community. 

Manjhi, however, said Chirag’s father and Union cabinet minister Ramvilas Paswan should exercise his influence to get reservations meant for them into the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution so that they are shielded from judicial review.

Another masterstroke by Nitish was his announcement earlier this month of providing jobs to the next of kin of any SC/ST person killed in the state, according to party leaders. 

Nitish also inducted Dalit RJD MLA Prema Choudhary after the exit of JD(U)’s Dalit minister Shyam Rajak last month.

“Nitish is a very clever politician. He has sensed that there is unrest and resentment among Dalits over various issues — most of the migrants who faced crisis of livelihood during Covid were Dalits. After Covid, flood devastated them more, they are feeling the pinch of both the situations. Although it is Nitish’s advantage that he is with the BJP, who will pull Dalit votes for him, but he also has to protect his core voters,” said a former JD(U) leader now with the RJD.

Why Dalits are necessary for Nitish 

Dalits constitute 16 per cent of the Bihar population. Nitish belongs to the Kurmi caste, which is about 4 per cent of the state’s population, and a large section of Koiris, which account for 6 per cent of the population, vote for Nitish.

With this 10 per cent vote bank and help from either RJD or BJP, Nitish seems to be invincible, JD(U) leaders said.

When Nitish came to power in 2005, apart from ensuring reservation for Dalits in panchayat elections and bodies, he formed the ‘Mahadalit’ section — clubbing 21 of the 22 sections of the Dalits, leaving only Paswans out of this group. 

Although he included Paswans in the Mahadalit category in 2018 after coming back to the NDA fold, Chirag Paswan’s belligerent posturing seems to have unnerved Nitish, forcing him to aggressively pitch for Dalits.


Also read: Bihar voters fatigued by Nitish but he’ll be helped by goodwill for Modi, BJP assessment says


 

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