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RJD, Dal think Mandal

Patna, July 7: Lalu Prasad’s call to unite Mandal forces and Nitish Kumar-led JDU’s response is, apparently, the beginning of two estranged socialists coming together to take on the BJP.

The BJP humbled the RJD and JDU in the Lok Sabha polls. But the vote shares of the RJD (29.5 per cent) and the JDU (over 15.5 per cent) when combined exceed that of the BJP (31 per cent). “Division of Mandal (backward caste) votes allowed the BJP to grab power,” Lalu said at the end of the RJD’s foundation day function on Sunday.

State JDU chief Bashishtha Narayan Singh — believed to be close to Nitish — said: “Lalu has spoken an unalloyed truth.”

Nitish even flew down to Delhi on Sunday to meet CPI leader A.B. Bardhan.

RJD national spokesperson Manoj Jha said: “The RJD is ready for any sacrifice to bring like-minded parties together to fight social inequality that the Sangh represents.”

Lalu and Nitish, apparently, wish to recreate the election magic of the early 1990s. Though the BJP then rode on L.K. Advani’s rath yatra wave, the Janata Dal, CPI and CPM had grabbed 48 of united Bihar’s 54 seats in 1991. The BJP won just five seats.

United, the Mandal forces mauled the BJP, which Lalu describes as Kamandal (those who hold holy pitchers). But it may not be easy to turn the clock back on the BJP. Senior BJP leader Sushil Modi on Monday told PTI: “Both Mandal and Kamandal are with BJP now.”

A veteran socialist leader said: “Much water has flown down the Ganga in the past 20 years. The BJP was then controlled by the upper castes. Now, a Yadav (Nand Kishore) heads its legislature party in Bihar and another leader with backward caste origin, Sushil Kumar Modi, is a key member of the party. Narendra Modi, too, has backward caste origins.”

But, a JDU-RJD alliance will have its impact, say observers. Muslims, who constitute over 16 per cent of the state’s votes, could consolidate behind an RJD-JDU alliance. Lalu and Nitish would also try and bring together the Yadavs, Kurmis and Extremely Backward Classes. Lalu has demanded 60 per cent quota for backward classes, EBCs and minorities in contract works. The JDU government might accept it. It will help the JDU and the RJD consolidate backward classes and revive a traditional rivalry as the upper castes grab a bigger share of contracts. The alliance with Lalu might rob Nitish of his assiduously cultivated image of susashan (good governance), though.

BJP general secretary Sudhir Kumar Sharma said Lalu and Nitish were a spent force and people in Bihar want to see a BJP state government led by Sushil Kumar Modi.


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