PATNA: Bihar’s Opposition RJD-led Grand Alliance on Sunday got further expanded as Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) of Mukesh Sahni, the leader of the state’s EBC boatmen communities, joined the alliance in presence of top leaders from RJD, Congress, RLSP and HAM.
The development, which came on a day the ruling NDA’s three parties in the state – JD(U), BJP and LJP – announced their seat-sharing pact, raised the Grand Alliance’s confidence about having an upper hand in the state in next year’s Lok Sabha polls. Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha had walked out of NDA and joined the Grand Alliance just thirteen days ago.
Sahni, 37, represents the Nishads, traditionally boatmen’s communities who span across 21 sub-castes and have their livelihood linked to the river. These Extremely Backward Caste (EBC) communities are wooed by every political party during elections. Sahni claims to have brought all these sub-castes of about 1.75 crore people in Bihar under one organisation, Nishad Vikas Sangh (NVS), of which he is the founder and national president. The EBCs constitute about 30 per cent of Bihar’s population.
“BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised during the last general elections that the Nishads would be accorded reservation benefits and other rights, which is why I had supported BJP. But they betrayed the Nishads,” said Sahni, who has popularised himself as the “Son of Mallah” in Bihar.
RJD’s de-facto chief and Bihar Opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav said Sahni’s joining the Grand Alliance will strengthen it. “I am confident that the Grand Alliance will register a massive win in the upcoming elections. The people are set to give a befitting answer to NDA for insulting the mandate in the last Assembly polls and the current atmosphere of emergency and fear in the country,” said Yadav.
“If NDA wins more than two Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, I will quit politics,” said Sahni, adding that a seat-sharing arrangement in the Grand Alliance would be finalised amicably soon.
RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha said LJP of Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan chose to stay with NDA and opted for a Rajya Sabha seat for himself because he (Paswan) knew his party would not win any seats in Bihar. HAM chief and former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi said Paswan, by keeping LJP with NDA, proved that he no longer remains a well-wisher of the Dalits.