Bihar polls: JDU appoints Ashok Choudhary as working president, inducts former DGP
In a significant move to prime social engineering component ahead of polls, Janata Dal (United) on Sunday decided to appoint Dalit leader Ashok Choudhary as the working president for looking after organisational and election-related activities as state president Bashistha Narain Singh has not been keeping well.
Building construction department minister Ashok Choudhary joined the JD(U) in 2018 along with three Bihar state legislative council members of Congress. He is the second leader from the grand-old party to have risen into prominence after Vijay Kumar Chaudhary in Nitish-led party in a short time and command the attention of national president as one in the inner circle member.
Aware of the crass reality that Bihar polls is a heady mix of caste, where development is an icing on the cake, the JD(U) has spared no time to fix the gap and associated questions that surfaced before the party following the ‘ghar wapsi’ of party minister Shyam Rajak, a Dalit politician who has been rallying SC/ST lawmakers to oppose the NDA’s attempt to dilute special treatment provisions, back into the RJD fold.
In Ashok Choudhary - who became a legislator from Barbigha reserved constituency and jail minister in Rabri Devi cabinet in 2000 and, eventually, went on to become the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president in 2013 - the JD(U) seems to have found a leader who is both tech-savvy and can connect with youth and elders alike. Choudhary can also be presented as progressive Dalit leader.
The newly-appointed state working president thanked JD(U) national president and chief minister Nitish Kumar for reposing faith in him and said, “he has worked relentlessly for empowering Mahadalits, since 2006 - which is one of his principle agenda. Uday Narain Choudhary’s elevation as state assembly speaker and Jitan Ram Manjhi as chief minister is an example of his commitment for the empowerment of the last man. I will leave no effort to ensure the victory of NDA on more than 200 seats.”
The eagerness to fill the void created by Rajak’s exit has also been evident in chief minister’s action of mending fences with his former protege Jitan Ram Manjhi, who had rebelled and tried to cling to the post of chief minister against the wishes of his mentor. Kumar had chosen Manjhi as his replacement after the JD(U) suffered a severe drubbing in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and Manjhi, in a failed attempt, sought the BJP’s backing to keep Nitish away from regaining his chair.
Recently, the chief minister has passed a decree to complete the investigation of all pending cases of atrocities against Dalits in 15 days and ensure that guilty are brought to book to send out a clear message among the members of such communities that the government will not tolerate any strongarm tactics against them.
But it remains a moot point whether the message of Choudhary’s elevation as working president will reach out to the targeted communities, which account for 16 percent of the total vote share, in the exact manner in which the ruling party desires. Choudhary has been loud in expressing his keenness to register a win from a non-reserved seat.
As compared to this, the final move of Ram Vilas Paswan’s son and LJP chief Chirag Paswan, who has been foul-mouthing against Kumar and alliance government, will set the field for a keener than expected contest for Dalit votes.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar also formally inducted former DGP Gupteshwar Pandey into party fold by handing over the primary membership of the JD(U) in the presence of assembly speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, working president Ashok Choudhary and Rajiv Ranjan Singh.
Pandey had met chief minister Nitish Kumar at party office yesterday clearing the air that he was keen to begin his electoral innings with the JD(U) after taking voluntary retirement.