The Telegraph
Wednesday , July 23 , 2014
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Brand vs Mandal bump for alliance

Patna, July 22: Brand Bihar faces a challenge from Mandal politics if Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad do indeed join hands in their fight against the BJP.

Very recently, the RJD chief, addressing a public meeting in Vaishali, stressed the need to bring back the “golden Mandal era”. “It will be a fight between Mandal and Kamandal,” he roared, asking party workers to get ready to start the fire.

On Tuesday, Nitish posted his thoughts about the next Assembly elections on his Facebook page. “It is going to be Brand Bihar vs BJP in Bihar elections,” he declared. “Brand Bihar is the idea of building a state where the best ideas in society thrive and show the way to the country. We must show the way in which millions of youths will get skilled and earn respectable livelihood. We must show the way in which small and marginal farmers and farm workers can collectively usher in the 2nd Green Revolution (Rainbow Revolution in the real sense) in the country. We must show the way in which electricity lights up and charges the economy of villages still living in darkness. We must show the way in which people can collaborate to bring total sanitation and live in clean and green villages and cities. We must show the way in which the lines of caste and religion can be breached to build communities of collaboration and self–esteem.”

There is no caste in Nitish’s game plan. “I must tell the 11 crore people of Bihar and especially our youth that we will work together to inspire the whole nation with Brand Bihar. The political activists of Bihar must on the one hand ensure that the ideas of Brand Bihar are realized on the ground and on the other must work to defeat BJP in the elections and stall any expansion of their one-eyed vision of society. So, the elections in Bihar are going to be a battle between Brand Bihar and the BJP. And the people of Bihar must unite in this battle,” he said.

JDU sources indicate that though Nitish is open to the idea of an alliance with the RJD, he does not subscribe to Lalu’s brand of politics. “Even in the Mandal era when every other leader flaunted their caste, Nitish never uttered a word on it. He was uncomfortable with caste politics,” recalled a senior JDU leader.

Nitish supporters almost sound apologetic when it comes to speaking about the proposed alliance with the RJD. JDU spokesperson Ajay Alok, while praising Nitish’s Brand Bihar move, said an alliance with the RJD would be sort of an experiment.

“Brand Bihar is a cause. It is a cause that binds all Biharis, wherever they are and whatever they do, in one single bond. Electoral politics and compulsions are different things altogether and nothing is permanent in politics. Lalu Prasad’s call may be whatever; the JDU stands for Brand Bihar,” he said.

The RJD, on the other hand, remains unapologetic about their caste call. “Our leader’s call is centred on bringing all the people, including the downtrodden, onto one single platform. Now, with Jitan Ram Manjhi as the chief minister, the Mahadalits are seeing a new ray of hope. The call of Mandalisation is just about bringing the different groups together,” said RJD state chief Ram Chandra Purbey.

Political circles are wondering what the impending alliance will spell for the state. “The differences will not just be about issues related to seats and seat-sharing. The strong contradictions between the two leaders will make the alliance an uneasy one,” said a senior RJD leader who did not wish to be named.

The BJP described the stand of both parties as “fake” Leader of Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav said: “Brand Bihar was formed against the jungle raj of the RJD. Now that Nitish too has joined hands with the RJD, the idea of Brand Bihar is a fake,” Yadav said.