7 Sep, 2010, 02.10AM IST, Ashok K Mishra,ET Bureau

Development, not caste, will be Nitish’s card
PATNA: In a state where politics is mainly driven by caste
considerations, chief minister Nitish Kumar is flaunting the
development card which, he firmly believes, will place NDA in an
advantageous position in the coming electoral battle.

“The ruling NDA has done enough by way of development and this should
make sense with the electorate. I am sure they will shun caste loyalty
and vote for development this time. Those believing in the credo of
caste-based politics will get a rude shock in the elections ” the
chief minister told ET.

The installation of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government on November
24, 2005, led to significant changes which are visible across the
spectrum. The road sector started buzzing as never before, resulting
in tremendous improvement in the road network.

New life was breathed into the moribund health care and education
sectors. The ‘kidnapping industry,’ the only flourishing industry
during the Rabri-Lalu era, saw its demise. Bihar was scripting a
turnaround story, the message was clear for the experts to acknowledge
the development story of Bihar. No wonder, Mr Kumar is not hesitating
to play out the development story before the electorate this time,
something which no politician had done in the recent past.

At the same time, a wily Mr Kumar has also played the role of a hard
core politician who would get his social engineering acts right by
carving new constituencies, which, in his case, saw the creation of
extremely backward caste (EBCs) and Maha-Dalit vote banks.

First, he announced reservation for EBCs in the panchayati raj and
local bodies, a decision which led to the grouping rooting for the
ruling NDA in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The creation of
Maha-Dalits, accounting for the poorest of the poor among the larger
Dalit community, will also come in handy for Mr Nitish Kumar, who,
apart from doling out largesse, has also made provision for allotting
land to them.

Both EBCs and Maha-Dalits account for nearly 40% of the electorate and
they will constitute the core vote bank of Nitish Kumar.

As for Muslims, who would have felt more comfortable with Mr Kumar,
were he to sever his ties with BJP, a section of them will still be
inclined to support at least JD(U) candidates on the basis of ‘good
work’ done by the Nitish government for minorities.

The reopening of the 1989 Bhagalpur communal riot cases leading to
conviction of some accused, payment of life-long pension to the kin of
those killed in the riots, fencing of graveyards, his aggressive take
on Mr Narendra Modi and the fact that not a single communal riot
happened during his tenure are highpoints which are likely to
influence the voting-pattern of the minority community.

The upper castes, who had backed Mr Kumar to the hilt in 2005, and
later in the Lok Sabha elections, however, may be open to the idea of
supporting Congress now that it has completely distanced itself from

All this may, however, opens up the possibility of Mr Lalu Prasad
being pitchforked back to centre stage, a prospect which is expected
to convince a majority of the upper castes to back the JD(U)-BJP
combine eventually. What is more, there will be voters from among the
upper castes who’d be ready to support the development plank of Nitish

All in all, Mr Nitish Kumar will serve before the electorate a
political menu which is going to be a heady mix of politics and
development. The chief minister, however, will vouch that the
development plank alone will help win a second term for the ruling

“Last time, people voted for us because they wanted to get rid of RJD.
But this time people will vote for us because of our performance. It
will be positive vote for us,“ remarked Mr Nitish Kumar.

His clean and honest image is a bonus. The soft-spoken leader, to
many, stands in sharp contrast to the controversial RJD supremo, who
has been tarred with the corruption and nepotism taint.


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