Monday, November 8, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Nitish awaits mandate of Mahadalits

Nitish awaits mandate of Mahadalits

Giridhar Jha
Patna, November 8, 2010
Updated 09:38 IST

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Mahadalit politics will be put to
a test in the final two phases of the ongoing assembly polls.

Altogether 61 constituencies spread over 12 districts will go to the
polls in the remaining two rounds on November 9 and November 20.
Polling in these two rounds will determine whether Nitish's efforts to
win over the Mahadalits - who constitute around 15 per cent of the
state's population - will pay him dividends in the elections.

There are 13 seats reserved for the scheduled castes in the final two
phases. They are: Rajauli, Makhdumpur, Agiaon, Rajgir, Bodh Gaya,
Phulwari, Masaurhi, Rajpur, Mohania, Chenari, Kutumba, Imamganj and
Barachatti (map). But there are 17 general constituencies - Kargahar,
Arwal, Bhabhua, Ramgarh, Bikarm, Harnaut, Asthawan, Barbigha, Nawada,
Hisua, Govindpur, Gurua, Sherghati, Tekari, Belaganj, Atari and
Wazirganh - in western and southern parts of the state where the Dalit
population is over 20 per cent.

In the majority of constituencies in Gaya district, Dalits constitute
24 to 30 per cent voters while in Nawada, it is between 20 and 26 per
cent. In Rajauli constituency of the district, the Dalit population is
29 per cent (Census 2001).

The Bihar poll results in these seats will be an indicator of the
success or failure of the efforts by the Nitish Kumar government in
improving the conditions of the Mahadalit community. In the middle of
his term, Nitish had set up a Mahadalit Commission to suggest measures
for the betterment of the most deprived sections of the 22 Dalit

The commission recommended that all Dalit castes, except Dusadhs
(Paswans), should be categorised as Mahadalits since their
socioeconomic status needed special attention.

In its interim report, the commission included only 18 Dalit castes
and left out Paswan, Dhobi, Ravidas and Pasi from its ambit but it
went on to include Dhobi, Ravidas and Pasi later, leaving only Paswan
as Dalit.

Bihar was the first state in the country to have set up a commission
to uplift those Dalits lagging behind others in social, financial,
educational and political fields.

Nitish had said there was a need to bridge the gap between the
Mahadalits and others. His government has announced a slew of sops for
the Mahadalits in the past couple of years, which was seen as his
attempt to win over these voters in the state.

The government launched a Mahadalit Development Mission to dole out
sops worth Rs 300 crore among the Dalits in three years.

The state government has also decided to give three decimals of land
each to Mahadalit families.

Nitish's move was also seen as an attempt to weaken the base of Lok
Janshakti Party president Ram Vilas Paswan, who was the undisputed
leaders of the Dalits earlier. His decision to create a separate "
Mahadalit vote bank" sparked a row in the state.

Paswan said that Nitish was playing divide- and- rule politics in the
name of Dalits and Mahadalits.

He alleged that the Nitish government was duping Mahadalits by
promising three decimals of land.

"But his move will not pay any dividend in the elections," Paswan said.

Nitish has always maintained that his government's decision on
Mahadalits had nothing to do with vote bank politics. But political
observers believed he was trying to consolidate his base among the
Dalits through welfare measures.

In the November 2005 assembly polls, the Janata Dal-United and its
coalition partner BJP had won 15 and 11 seats respectively out of the
total 39 seats reserved for the scheduled castes. In contrast, the RJD
had won seven, while the LJP and the Congress had bagged two each. The
CPI ( ML) and the CPI had won one seat each.

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