With tensions between Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar finally leading to a schism within JD(U), Bihar’s caste politics may be moving towards the Uttar Pradesh experience of OBCs and SCs occupying opposite camps.
In UP, Dalits under BSP and dominant sections of the OBCs under the SP do not see eye to eye for two decades since an attack on Mayawati at a Lucknow guest house.
The differences however may also be symbolic of tensions on the ground.
This is a far cry from the idea of Bahujan — the society’s majority, which included Dalits and OBCs — that the BSP once believed in.
“Manjhi is like an avatar of Kabir. He is a very popular leader today. It is up to the upper castes to decide whether to side with Dalits or with OBC leaders Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, and I am sure the upper castes of Bihar will choose to be with Dalits,” former Union minister and BJP Dalit leader, Sanjay Paswan told HT.
The clash with Manjhi does not augur well for Nitish Kumar as he had tried to cultivate the Mahadalits — the most backward among Dalit castes — as chief minister, even making a commission for them.
The Dusadhs — the other powerful chunk of Dalits in Bihar — are with Ram Vilas Paswan.
The BJP — traditionally associated with the upper castes in the state — may thus be on the cusp of forging an unprecedented social coalition.
This political alliance would have been unimaginable in the late 1990s, when private armies of upper caste landlords clashed with the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), which claimed to represent landless Dalits.