By Manoj Kumar
Patna: Political urgency may have forced the arch rivals, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, to close ranks and hasten the merger of their respective parties – RJD and JD(U) – but all is not hunky-dory with the arrangement of convenience. The merger was based on assumption that the combined strength of vote banks comprising Yadavs, Kurmis and Mahadalits would make for a deadly combination, enough to put the BJP on the mat, but it appears now that the caste groups are unwilling to come under one umbrella.
This is specially true of the Yadavs and Kurmis, who have been inimical to each other for more than two decades and are not simply enthused by the idea of merger after having independently enjoyed power in the past 25 years by turns. In fact, the divide has gone too deep to be easily bridged by the mere coming together of their leaders. If the reports trickling in from the ground are to be believed these caste groups are now searching for “alternatives”, which could be the BJP or Jitan Ram Manjhi’s yet to be formed party.
Yadavs, who account for some 15 percent of Bihar’s total population, form the core vote base of Lalu’s RJD whereas Kurmis who are roughly about four percent in number have been traditionally loyal to JD(U) leader Nitish.
Their rivalry began the day Nitish raised a banner of revolt against Lalu’s leadership after holding a Kurmi Chetna Rally in February 1994. It was a time when the Yadav chieftain was at the height of his popularity. Nitish went on to initiate a slew of steps aimed at ousting the RJD from power, which included causing a split in the parent Janata Dal to form the Samata Party, joining the BJP to nail Lalu in fodder scam and ultimately joining the NDA. The rivalry took a turn for the worse when Nitish finally ended RJD’s 15-year-old rule in the October 2005 assembly elections and subsequently went on selectively targeting the RJD leaders. He reopened the disproportionate assets case against Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi soon after coming to power. Now, the Yadavs just refuse to forget their “torture” at the hands of Nitish.
“How can we forget our tortures and humiliation at the hands of Nitish? The 15-year-old rule of the RJD was likened to ‘Jungle Raj’, ‘Aatank Raj’ and ‘Lathi mein tel pilanewala raj’ by Nitish and his party. Yadavs were painted as villains. There does not arise any question of supporting Nitish,” asked Pawan Kumar Yadav, a resident of Gohana village under Bihta block in Patna district. “Yadav bargalanewala nahi hai. Nitish ko aisa patkania dega ka pani nahin mangega,” he added.
Daneshwar Yadav, a resident from Phulparas bock in Madhubani district, have a different reason not to support the merged group. “Lalu has now reduced to be the mere leader of his family. For him, his first concern now is his family; and not the masses or the Yadav community,” remarked Yadav, describing both Lalu and Nitish as “rank opportunists” whose merger idea would boomerang.
The growing anger within the Yadav community is underlined from the fact that they have launched an intensive campaign against Nitish under the banner of “Yadav Swabhiman Manch” (YSM). Through this campaign, the fellow Yadav class is being appealed to first go through five major “actions” of the Nitish Kumar government against Yadav before deciding to support him.
It says Nitish handed out five “gifts” to the Yadav community during his 10-year-old regime. They included—administrative tortures, shunting of top officials from this caste, Yadavs given little share in large-scale political appointments, Lalu Yadav was presented as a ‘villain’ and, finally, the RJD was shown the thumb in power share after getting the RJD support in government formation. “Will you (Yadavs) still vote for Nitish to make him the CM?” asks the YSM.
Similar is the condition with Nitish’s Kurmis who do not seem enthused about the merger. Although they are not bigger in number, they had all along supported every action of Nitish but this time they are said to be hugely displeased. “Yadavs and Kurmis have been rivals or long…the other backward castes just cannot come together with Lalu. It is only a meeting of leaders, not the masses,” said Dr Dilip Kumar Verma from Mahavirganj in Bhojpur district. “Kurmis vikalp khoj raha hai (Kurmis are searching for alternatives to transfer their votes other than the merged party),” he revealed.
Mahadalits, who make for a huge 23 percent of total vote bank, had solidly voted for the JD(U) in the elections but post the unceremonious ouster of Jitan Ram Manjhi as Bihar CM they are angry. An impressive crowd at the ‘Garib Swabhman Rally’ organized by Manjhi at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on April 20 is a pointer to the fact that the Mahadalit class voters do not trust Nitish anymore and are ready to “punish” him.
“Not a single vote of Mahadalits will go to the Lalu-Nitish company. What crime Jiatn Manjhi had committed that he was thrown out in such a humiliating manner…Jis tarah hame dhakela, ham bhi dhakel denge (we would pushe them out the way they pushed us out),” says Kamlesh Manjhi from Belaganj in Gaya district.
“We may even opt for BJP but will never vote for Nitish,” he asserted.
Originally posted here: