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Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan inch closer to woo Dalits ahead of 2019 polls; BJP jittery 

The growing proximity between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of and his one-time rival Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP is pointing at a possible realignment of political equations in the run-up to the polls.

Published: 22nd April 2018 09:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd April 2018 09:20 AM   |  A+A-

BJP flags used for representational purpose only.(Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: With Bihar’s ruling NDA having started the ground work for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, pulls and pressures within the alliance are coming to the surface. The growing proximity between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of JD(U) and his one-time rival Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP is pointing at a possible realignment of political equations in the run-up to the polls. Kumar’s 2007 masterstroke of creating a new ‘Mahadalit’ category out of Bihar’s Dalit communities aimed at marginalising Paswan, the LJP chief. Paswan, currently Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public distribution, was then a Cabinet minister at the Centre. 

The move helped Kumar reap handsome gains in 2009 and 2010 polls. But Nitish has erased the distinction between Mahadalits and Dalits in an announcement made on Dr B R Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.“Now all welfare schemes meant for the Mahadalits will be available to all Dalits. Don’t worry about residential land or anything else,” said Kumar as he finally broke down the wall he had erected between Dalits and Mahadalits.

The move, which followed five meetings between Paswan and Kumar, puts an end to the isolation of people from Paswan’s caste of Dusadhs, Bihar’s second largest SC group having greater literacy and political awareness than the rest of Dalits.The Dusadhs, who have traditionally voted for Paswan’s LJP, were the only Dalit community kept out of the Mahadalit category.Sources in JD(U) and LJP said the move was prompted by increasing fear within the two regional parties about BJP’s “high-handed attitude” and their desire to contain the damage done by Jitan Ram Manjhi’s defection to the Opposition RJD-led alliance. 

“If BJP insists on contesting for the largest number of seats in Bihar in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and disregards the wishes of its allies in the state, BJP will suffer a big jolt due to a new political alliance in the making,” said a senior JD(U) leader close to Paswan. Nitish, Paswan and RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha could come together to walk out of NDA and give both BJP and the RJD-led alliance “the toughest fight ever”, he added.

The possibility of such a scenario has given BJP the jitters, prompting it to make extra efforts to woo Bihar’s Dalits. The party recently nominated former Union minister Sanjay Paswan to the state Legislative Council. “Seat-sharing talks this time would be tough for us in Bihar, but we will take all care to avoid harm our interests,” said a BJP state secretary. 



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