Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit politician from Uttar Pradesh, was on Saturday appointed the new governor of poll-bound Bihar, where the saffron party is aggressively wooing the Scheduled Castes to defeat a grand alliance of Nitish Kumar's JD(U), Lalu Prasad's RJD and the Congress.
Kovind would replace Keshari Nath Tripathi, the West Bengal governor who had been holding the additional charge of Bihar since November 2014.
Chief minister Kumar said he was not consulted by the Centre regarding the appointment.
"As per the precedent so far, the central government, the home minister talks to the state government, its chief minister on it (appointment of governor)... This time there is no consultation. I have also got the information (about the appointment) through media," Kumar told reporters in Delhi.
A two-time member of Rajya Sabha and former national spokesperson of the party, Kovind, headed the BJP’s Scheduled Caste Morcha between 1999 and 2002, the period during which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was BJP’s general secretary (organisation). Kovind comes from the Koli community, which is classified as SC in Uttar Pradesh but not in Bihar.
Pitted against a formidable combine of Kumar and Lalu, the BJP has set its eye on the extremely backward communities and the Dalits to weave a magical combination along with the upper castes.
While Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan is part of the NDA, the alliance has also tied up with former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, whom Kumar had unceremoniously removed from the top chair.
Manjhi comes from the Mushar community, which is classified as Mahadalits or underprivileged SC, and the BJP hopes its Dalit outreach in Bihar would be detrimental to Kumar.
Altogether 21 out of 23 SC communities in Bihar are classified as Mahadalit, which receive special focus and funds under government schemes.
Meanwhile, Dr Dev Vrat Acharya was appointed the new governor of Himachal Pradesh. Acharya currently heads the Gurukul Kurukshetra, an institution founded by Swami Shradhananda and currently run by Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Rohtak.
Acharya is known for his proximity to senior RSS leaders and has been closely associated with yoga guru Ramdev. He would replace Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh, who had been holding the additional charge of Himachal Pradesh since January this year.