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Pollspeak from Delhi in Maithili

Darbhanga, Dec. 23: With the Lok Sabha’s official recognition of Maithili, the stage appears to have been set for the NDA to deal a language card against Laloo Prasad Yadav’s caste card.

“We have been struggling for the last 60 years for it. The recognition has put the Maithili language on the cultural map of the country,” Kirti Azad, the MP from Darbhanga in Bihar’s Mithila region, said over phone from Delhi. The Lok Sabha yesterday unanimously passed the Constitution (100th amendment) Bill, 2003, to include Maithili in the eighth schedule.

In line with Azad’s stress on the importance of Bihar’s northern region to the NDA, the central ruling coalition and its leader, the BJP, have organised celebrations tomorrow to mark the recognition. Contemporary Maithili poets would be feted and scholars of the language would explain its cultural legacy.

The Mithila region, which comprises Darbhanga, Tirhut, Purnia and Saharsa divisions, had returned NDA leaders from all nine of its Lok Sabha seats the last time.

Any party that wants to make inroads into Bihar, either in the general polls next year or the state polls later, would have to do battle in this region, bordering Nepal. The reason is that central and south Bihar are already embroiled in caste politics, with Laloo Prasad and the Congress having the edge.

The north, once a bastion of the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief’s MY (Muslim-Yadav) brand of politics, has shown visible signs of unravelling since the 1999 Parliamentary polls. Even the 2000 state polls had returned more BJP MLAs than earlier.

The NDA, however, would find the going tough as evident from the complaints of Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, the veteran RJD MP from Vaishali district. He says Bhojpuri language is spoken by 20 crore people —against the 3 crore who speak Maithili — but is still facing deprivation. His party associates share his opinion.

The BJP started paving the road to “recovery” for Maithili in June when Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced his offer of official status. In August, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani visited Darbhanga to inaugurate a local AIR programme in the language.

Laloo Prasad had in 1990 dropped Maithili from school, college and public service examinations, stopping students from using it to write the papers.

“The last but the most significant decision of the BJP central leadership was to bring back to the party, Tarakant Jha, a noted advocate who has been spearheading the movement in Maithil region for separate statehood,” a veteran BJP leader said.

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