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Blast crumbles Nitish’s image

The serial bomb blasts at Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya may not have damaged the world known shrine, but it has dented the image of Nitish Kumar and he has suffered irreparable damage to his image of a strong administrator. Nitish is an image conscious politician and he has acquired his present status in the national politics because of his image of a clean and able administrator. Despite being a leader of a small regional party, if he was considered to be a prospective prime minister of India, it was only because of his good image.

After walking out from National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Nitish was yet to decide his future course of politics and in the meanwhile these blasts have taken place. The Centre immediately put all the blame on the Bihar government for the blasts. It claimed that it was providing continuous intelligence about the imminent attack on Mahabodhi temple to Bihar government. Some of the inputs were very specific, but the Bihar police did not act on them. The inputs were forwarded to Gaya police in a very casual manner and the blasts could not be prevented.

Soon after the blast, Nitish asked the Central government to take the responsibility of protection of the temple in its hand and hand it over to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). He has repeated this demand many times. This has further dented his image and a message has emanated from him that his government is not confidant enough to provide security to the shrine on its own. By asking Centre to take up the security management of the shrine in its hand, Nitish has exposed himself to the criticism of his detractors. After severing his link from BJP, Nitish has entered into a period of uncertain future. The reason is he has not fought a single election without the support of BJP since 1996. After leaving the Janata Dal of V P Singh in 1994, he had formed Samata Party under the leadership of George Fernandes. His party had fought 1995 Vidhan Sabha elections of united Bihar in company of CPI(ML) and could win only seven seats out of total 324. After the election, he found himself almost politically dead. Then an alliance with BJP gave him a new lease of life. After that, he fought each and every election with the support of BJP and continuously improved his political status and ultimately reached the stage, where he is today.

His post NDA politics is not certain. Castes decide the political fortunes of parties and their leaders in Bihar and Nitish does not have a solid caste base. To create his own base, he has divided the caste and social groups in one hand and plays the politics of Bihari identity on the other. He has divided Dalits into Dalits and Mahadalits and plays the Mahadalit card. He has divided even Muslims into Forward Muslims and Backward (Pashmanda) Muslims and play backward Muslim cards. Though OBCs were already divided into OBCs and extremely backward classes, by giving quota in local bodies elections, he has tried to win over the support of EBCs.

The whole caste politics of Nitish revolves around the further caste fragmentations. Since the weaker sections of Bihar were already disenchanted with Lalu Yadav, because of the criminalisation of the society, it is difficult to guess whether NDA under Nitish was getting the support of weaker sections because of their fragmentations by Nitish or because of their anti-Lalu sentiments. It should be mentioned that Lalu himself used to win only because of the support of these weaker sections of society, who initially saw their messiah in Lalu. The main problem of Nitish in Bihar politics is that Narendra Modi, the face of BJP, too belongs to a weaker OBC, while Nitish himself is from a dominant OBC. This has given BJP leaders of Bihar some pointed campaigning point against Nitish that he does not want to see a man from weaker OBC to adorn the chair of prime ministership. The weak socio economic family background of Narendra Modi may spell doom to the politics of caste fragmentations of Nitish Kumar.

By attacking Modi for Gujarat riots after Godhra carnage, Nitish was trying to consolidate his support at least among the Backward Muslims, who form over 80 per cent of entire Muslim population of Bihar, but the serial blasts may frustrate his attempts of caste division among the Muslims.
Forward Muslims are already against Nitish for promoting caste politics in their community, the serial blasts and their follow up politics may create communal tension in Bihar. Communal tension results into communal polarisation and this kind of communal polarisation puts cover over the caste divisions. This is true both in Hindu and Muslim communities. When communal tension is high, intra caste contradictions get suspended.

That is where the politics of Nitish Kumar is getting damaged. Indian Mujahidin has taken the responsibility of these serial blasts and the Hindu Muslim relations are likely to get spoiled. Though Buddha himself started a separate faith, which is something different from what today is known as Hinduism, Buddha himself commands high respect among the Hindus of Bihar. Biharis consider Buddha as one of their forefathers and any attack on Buddha agitates their consciousness.
A backward Muslim has told this writer that these riots are being promoted by Forward Muslims only to prevent the caste division of the community. It should be mentioned that during UP elections, many parties were talking of the quota to OBCs Muslims creating caste rift in the community.

In the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, the fundamentalists among the Muslims may devise the same tactics to avoid caste fragmentation of their community. If the serial blasts of Bodhgaya, is the part of the same strategy, then Nitish Kumar will have to face tough moments both as and administrator and politician. IPA

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