Friday, February 20, 2015

Politics moves to Bihar

As Delhi’s dramatic Assembly elections came to an end with equally dramatic results shaking the seats of power, the political drama has now moved to Bihar. The new focus of power play is now in Patna. The present Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has clearly opened a war against ex-CM and Bihar’s political giant Nitish Kumar. Intrigue, opportunism and greed are all there. Nitish Kumar has wanted to be the Chief Minister of Bihar for the last 10 months. The stakes have now risen since Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and leader of Lok Jantantrik Party (LJP) Ram Vilas Paswan offered support to Jitan Ram Manjhi. Nitin Kuma sees him as a rebel.

Jitan Ram Manjhi has turned out to be a Frankenstein’s monster for Nitish Kumar. Nitish stepped aside from Chief Minister’s position in Bihar after the blow Janta Dal- United (JD-U) received in Lok Sabha elections 2014. The Modi wave crushed them to zeo seats, not a single seat. Whereas in 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the JD-U and BJP combined won 30 seats out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.

Realising that Maha Dalit votes have gone from JD-U’s control, and BJP is able to create new vote banks with support of LJP (as Ram Vilas Paswan is considered a Dalit leader), Nitish Kumar made Jitan Ram Manjhi the state Chief Minister. Manjhi belongs to the Mushar community, which is the poorest of the poor community in Bihar. People belonging to that particular community are living in sub-human conditions. Nitin calculated that by making a Chief Minister from Mushar community would lure many Maha Dalit voters for the party. Nitish was eyeing Assembly elections scheduled in late 2015.

Nitish also wanted to work on ground for the party to connect with people and regain seats for JD-U. He found new aalies after breaking ties with BJP on grounds that BJP made Narendra Modi the face of larger National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He went onto form alliance with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Indian National Congress (INC), once arch rivals of Nitish and JD-U. The new alliance surprised everybody, but it worked wonders for Nitish Kumar (JD-U) and Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD). They went onto defeat BJP in by-elections in Bihar, together winning 6 seats out of 10.

But while Nitish was busy working on grounds, Jitan Ram Manjhi was making it to ‘Breaking news’ every now and then for strange and provocative comments. The intellectuals and the urban middle class rubbished Manjhi as someone who can make funny comments but not serious ones. However he made a mark with the Dalits and Maha Dalits. He was their new leader and became popular among them. His boastful remarks were seen as anti-upper class and anti-progressive.

JD-U became weary of Manjhi, but Nitish did not pay much heed to him. Then there was news relating to Manjhi’s son being involved in a sex scandal, followed by Manjhi’s comment of “it happens everywhere”. Even that was ignored although it attracted media attention..

Now, Nitish wants to take power back from Manjhi. He needs to be the Chief Minister again because that will help him prepare effective strategy. Manjhi doesn’t want to leave his CM seat. So he has been looking for support elsehwre. In latest developments, BJP has offered support to Manjhi. Out of 29 ministers in Bihar, 20 Nitish supporter Minister have resigned. Manjhi meanwhile has taken up residence in Delhi to meet Naredra Modi and other top leaders of BJP. Bihar may face early elections. And Manjhi will bring more Maha Dalit votes to BJP. ensuring it forms government in Bihar. The BJP wont be able to resist that after Delhi.

All of this may look a bit complicated. But then Bihar’s politics has never been simple! Nitish Kumar who was once seen as the progressive face of Bihar has lost credibility in the middle and upper class section of the society. Manjhi was never favourite for them. BJP may have an upper hand amongst the chaos. But again there can be nothing certain in Bihar’s politics, especially after the dramatic Delhi elections result.

Whatever else happens, the winner of the upcoming Assembly elections in Bihar will be the person who is able to lure Maha Dalits and Dalits of Bihar- the people who still live in sub-human conditions.

This article was first published on on February 10, 2015

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