Wednesday, April 7, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Battle for Dalit votes hots up in Bihar

Battle for Dalit votes hots up in Bihar

Dipak Mishra, TNN, Apr 7, 2010, 01.07am IST

PATNA: The battle for the Dalit votes is on in Bihar. The stakes for
state's tallest Dalit leader, Ram Vilas Paswan, is high and he has
been busy trying to counter his chief political advisory chief
minister Nitish Kumar on the issue. Holding a series of meetings,
Paswan has given a call to Dalits to boycott Nitish Kumar for
allegedly insulting them by calling them "Mahadalits". His party has
petitioned the National SC/ST Commission chairman Sardar Buta Singh to
direct the state government to dissolve the Mahadalit Commission.

He has also ridiculed Nitish's claim on showering gifts to Dalits and
makes promises. "When we return to power we will purchase back the
house of late Bhola Paswan Sastri (former CM of Bihar) and turn it
into a museum. Nitish recently remarked that he would rename a park in
Sastri's name as if he was doing a favour to some beggar," Paswan
said. He alleged that the 3-decimel land given to Dalits were
"troubled land". "We will give each Dalit family one bigha of land
when we come to power," he said.

During the last three years, Nitish has been targetting the section of
Dalits he has christened as Mahadalits consisting of 23 of the 24
Dalit sub-castes __ leaving out only Paswans from the ambit.
Originally he included 18 of them. He added four more. Just after the
defeat in the bypolls, he added the Ravidas sub-caste-who are
numerically even stronger than the Paswans.The NDA organized the
Mahadalit meet in Patna which was considered in political circles as a

"Our government has provided 18 per cent resevation to SCs and STs in
panchayat bodies as a result of which over 1,400 mukhiyas in the state
are Dalits," deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi said. He also pointed towards
the government's initiative of providing Rs 10,000 to each Dalit
students who passed their exams in first division.

The LJP chief enjoyed the status of "King maker" in Bihar for a
decade. He used to flaunt the fact that when he was with the NDA the
political scales tilted towards the NDA and when he joined the UPA the
situation resevered with the UPA sweeping the polls. He declared that
because he had fougth the assembly polls independently, the NDA
managed to emerge victorious. However, the 2009 Lok Sabha stripped him
of the the "King-maker" image as the RJD-LJP alliance came a cropper
and Paswan himself lost. With his very political survival in the state
is under question. Paswan is going all out to maintain his Dalit
mascot image.

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