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Dalit politics takes centre-stage in Bihar

New Delhi: The political scenario in Bihar is not going to be same as it was during the 2015 assembly elections when the ruling Janata Dal (United) was the part of Mahagathbandhan under the tutelage of Lalu Prasad Yadav –the icon of backward politics, including minorities.

As the dynamics of politics changed in 2020 assembly polls after JD(U) becoming a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at its helm of affairs, the vote share arithmetic has "forced" JD(U) to change its strategy to appease Dalits and not minorities.

The JD(U)'s decision to bring back former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi to its fold was the first signal of change in the script and upgrading the security of Manjhi to Z plus made it clear that JD(U) is focusing on grabbing the lion's share of about 15 per cent of Dalit vote.

The security upgradation of Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM-S) chief to Z plus is a notch higher that the Z security cover enjoyed by his rival Dalit leader and Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan, who enjoys the support of a major section of Dalit voters.

The decision of the Bihar government to provide employment to one member of a family, if any Dalit person is murdered in Bihar, was another major step that was taken to woo Dalits.

Chirag Paswan-led LJP, represents Dalit interests, is also flexing its muscles as its leader has already stated that it may field its candidates against JD(U) nominees if it did not get a good deal from the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance.

The RJD is also not leaving any stone unturned in playing Dalit card as the party has managed to bring back its Dalit face Shyam Razak to its side after Manjhi switched to JD(U). There are 38 reserved seats in the 243-seat assembly.

Commenting on recent developments, JD(U)'s minority cell leader Sayed Afzal Abbas said that there is nothing like minorities are being ignored in the state by the government.

"It's a known fact that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has done a lot for minorities in his 15 years' tenure. It's true that RJD talks about Muslim-Yadav combination, but RJD has used Muslims for its political gains only."

"In 2010 assembly polls, JD(U) had got about 30 per cent of Muslim votes and in this election too, the party would get a sizeable percentage of minorities' votes," said Abbas.

However, defending the recent decisions, HAM-S spokesperson Danish Rizwan said that upliftment of Dalits has always been a top priority of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as without development of Dalits, a developed society cannot be imagined.

On the changing scenario, political commentator Arvind Mohan said, "Polarisation of Dalits is a big gamble in Bihar. A larger section of Dalit voters are with LJP. There are apprehensions in JD(U) that minority vote may shift towards Grand Alliance due to BJP."

"The assembly elections would be different from 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Dalit voters may play a decisive role. The LJP has the key, but it's not for building a 'home' rather,"

he said.

Notably, in 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when JD(U)-BJP were alliance partners, the JD(U) had not allowed BJP's star campaigner and the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi to hold rallies in Bihar.

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