Nitish Mission of Mahadalit Mockery Versus Bihar Poor’s Struggle for Dignity and Development

With Assembly elections round the corner, Nitish Kumar has pulled out all stops to play his social engineering cards. Just a day before the inauguration of the budget session of the Assembly, Kumar accompanied by his deputy from the BJP, Sushil Modi, addressed a Mahadalit unity rally in Patna. The rally was convened and conducted by none other than the Speaker of Bihar Assembly, Uday Narain Chaudhary, who is projected by Nitish Kumar as a Mahadalit leader. Chaudhary, on his part, thanked Kumar for making a Mahadalit the Speaker of the Assembly and for ‘looking after’ the Mahadalits in the state.

The rally has been in the news on several counts. The role of the Speaker in openly calling upon a group of people to recognize the Chief Minister as their biggest benefactor has predictably created a major controversy. Apart from flaunting his partisan identity, Chaudhary was also involved in an unseemly row with another Mahadalit leader of the JD(U), former minister in RJD government, Shyam Rajak, over the seating arrangement on the stage. Denied a front row seat on the stage, Rajak had reportedly left the venue in a huff before being pacified and ‘rehabilitated’ by Nitish Kumar. A bigger embarrassment was reported on the evening prior to the rally when television cameras showed JD(U) MLA from Jeeradei in Siwan district (the ancestral place of India’s first President Rajendra Prasad) participating in vulgar dances in his MLA flat ostensibly to provide entertainment to Mahadalits from his constituency who had come to attend the Patna rally!

The RJD-LJP combine has demanded the resignation of the Speaker for violating the dignity and neutrality of Speaker’s office. Nitish Kumar on the other hand is happy with this allegation for this gives him the opportunity to project the Speaker and his government as a victim of anti-Mahadalit social prejudice! They had also cleverly organized the Mahadalit rally under the banner of a so-called Mahadalit morcha and not formally as a JD(U) or NDA show. Instead of questioning the propriety of the Speaker’s conduct, the very content of Nitish Kumar’s ‘mission Mahadalit’ should be subjected to serious scrutiny.

When the move was first initiated, 18 among Bihar’s 22 Dalit sub-castes were identified as Mahadalits. In two successive revisions, all Dalit sub-castes except Paswans were brought under the Mahadalit category and in the February 21 rally, Nitish Kumar also expressed his readiness to examine the case of bringing Paswans under the Mahadalit umbrella. Mahadalit has thus become just another name for Dalits and this clearly exposes the essential political gameplan underlying the Mahadalit campaign. Nitish has also reduced the agenda of land reforms to Mahadalit tokenism, the Land Reform Commission’s recommendation of one acre cultivable land for every landless family and 10 decimal homestead land for every homeless family has been reduced to a token assistance of Rs. 20,000 to Mahadalit families with which they are supposed to ‘buy’ homestead land!

Nitish and his deputy also talked about mandatory inclusion of all Mahadalit names in the BPL list, but the precondition for this promise is that the Centre should first accept Bihar government’s estimate of 1.40 crore BPL families in the state Bihar! Instead of taking responsibility for the criminal exclusion of millions of deserving Mahadalit families from Bihar’s existing BPL list, Nitish cleverly plays Centre-state political football with the rights of Mahadalits. He should also answer what has been stopping his government from ensuring that all Mahadalit families got jobs and proper wages under NREGA.

In yet another gem of shameless hypocrisy, Nitish Kumar asked Mahadalit women to guard the funds provided by the government so their men-folk did not squander it in drinking! It has been his government’s signal achievement that liquor shops have mushroomed in every panchayat even as the Excise minister has had to face dismissal for demanding a credible probe into large-scale excise theft by the liquor mafia!

Rejecting Nitish Kumar’s false promises and political mockery, on 20 February tens of thousands of Mahadalits and other members of rural poor demonstrated in front of block and subdivisional offices of Bihar. Their slogans were: “Check Prices, Give us Jobs – No Escape from Land Reforms” and “We want Land and Housing – Not Crumbs of Deception but Guaranteed Rights.” Class-conscious Communist organizers in Bihar villages will have to assert the supremacy of the Bihar poor’s glorious legacy of struggle over Nitish Kumar’s attempts to woo Mahadalits with vulgar dance and empty rhetoric.

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