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Dalits take centrestage in Bihar's poll year

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By NALIN VERMA
  • Published 5.04.10
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Patna, April 4: The Dalits have apparently become the flavour of the poll season in Bihar.

A day after LJP boss Ram Vilas Paswan organised his Dalit Sena rally, the NDA convened a maha-Dalit rally here today. Chief minister Nitish Kumar dwelt at length on the special measures that his government had initiated to uplift the maha-Dalits (lowly among the Dalits).

The measures include constitution of the Mahadalit Commission to identify the lowly among the Dalits and take up schemes to provide them with house, work, food, education besides financial assistance. NDA strategists believe that Nitish’s maha-Dalit mantra has paid off handsomely for the party with the “special measures” for them drawing a large section of the Dalit communities towards the ruling combination.

Initially, there were only 22 sub-castes of the Dalits were included in the maha-Dalit bracket. Later, the government included all the Dalit castes except the Paswans in the maha-Dalit bracket. Ram Vilas also belongs to the militant Paswan community and as such its exclusion provided him with the weapon to attack the Nitish government for “dividing” the Dalit community for political gains.

Nitish, however, announced that he was equally concerned for the Paswans and his government would bring out schemes to improve the lot of the community.

The differences within the JD(U) also came to the fore at the maha-Dalit rally, as its president Sharad Yadav failed to attend despite his name finding a place among the speakers.

Differences between the two leaders came to the fore over the women’s bill with Sharad opposing it in its current form and Nitish supporting it.

But the differences on the women’s bill issue appears to be taking a bigger dimension with Sharad trying to emerge as the centre of a few dissident MPs led by the ousted state JD(U) chief Lallan Singh.

However, Nitish still appears to have a stronger grip over the parliamentary party, too, as all the five MPs present in the Rajya Sabha at the time of voting on the women’s bill voted in favour of the bill despite Sharad opposing it.

Today also, almost all senior JD(U) and BJP leaders, including deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, participated in the maha-Dalit rally.