PATNA: Political parties in Bihar on Thursday used the birth anniversary of socialist icon and former CM Karpoori Thakur to woo the electorally significant EBC communities by calling for the widening of reservation benefits as they attacked each other while vying to claim his legacy.
The ruling JD(U) and the main Opposition RJD celebrated the 95th birth anniversary of Thakur in Patna and blamed each other for the lack of progress among the EBC and Dalit communities and the ills plaguing Bihar. JD(U)’s ally BJP, which celebrated the occasion a day ago, attacked RJD for “neglecting EBCs” during its 15-year rule in Bihar.
Thakur, a prominent leader of the EBCs who served as CM for two short terms in the 1970s, had first provided reservation for the backward castes in Bihar in 1977 by categorising the backward castes into two groups – OBC, which consists of dominant sections and EBC (Extremely Backward Castes), which comprises smaller castes with greater socioeconomic backwardness. The EBCs today account for about 30 per cent of Bihar’s population.
Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar, who assiduously cultivated the EBC constituency by giving it 20 per cent reservation in panchayat polls, accused jailed RJD chief and former CM Lalu Prasad Yadav of having tried to end the quota for the EBCs in 1993. RJD leader and former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav charged NDA with secretly planning to end all reservations.
“In 1993, when the Centre implemented the Mandal Commission’s recommendations, they (Lalu-led government) were planning to abolish the OBC-EBC distinction in Bihar saying the central scheme has no such divisions… I had clearly told them I would not keep quiet if the Karpoori formula is tampered with. This had prompted them to prepare a procession against me,” said Kumar in his speech. RJD leaders denied there was any such plan in 1993.
Terming himself as the “true follower of Jan Nayak Karpoorijee”, Kumar advocated for a countrywide caste-based Census in 2021 and provision for reservation to all castes in proportion of their population. He warned Bihar’s people not to be swayed by divisive propaganda spread through social media.
“Today the nation has a government made of people who have been opposing reservation, who abused the Jan Nayak and are descendants of Golwalkar and Godse,” said Tejashwi, reminding a gathering of his father Lalu’s close ties with Thakur. Tejashwi slammed Nitish for allying with BJP.