Is new political realignment emerging within non-BJP NDA?
A day after former Bihar Assembly Speaker quit the JD-U, senior leader Santosh Kushwaha resigned from primary membership of the party. Speculations are rife that former ministers Baghi Prasad Verma and Awadesh Kushwaha will also leave the party. Incidentally, except chaudhry all these three leaders belong to Kushwaha caste.
Chaudhry's resignation came two months after HAM, the party floated by Jitan Ram Manjhi, left NDA.
Dalits and Kushwahas are considered to be the backbone of JD-U. Thus the exit of a number of Dalit and Kushwaha leaders, according to Bihar watchers, may go a long way to weaken the party. It needs to be mention that RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha, though still in NDA, is hobnobbing with RJD.
Some analysts, however, do not agree to see it as a major loss for the party. They argue: ‘Uday Narayan Chaudhry and other leaders who are leaving do not find space to fulfill their ambition in the party. They are not such a political force, either. Chaudhry lost to Jitan Ram Manjhi in 2015 election. Santosh Kushwaha was aspiring for MLC ticket during the recently concluded council election, but it was not entertained by the party.’
Still perception counts much in politics. Therefore, to neutralise the effect, Nitish Kumar has in recent days buried the hatchet with other scheduled caste leader of the state, Ram Vilas Paswan, with whom he has had a long history of bitterness. Paswan's brother Pashupati Paras was inducted in Bihar cabinet despite not being a member of any house (later he was made MLC from Governor’s quota). A political analyst points out: 'Ram Vilas Paswan is the only leader in Bihar who has proven constituency of a Dalit sub caste—Dusad(Paswan) -- solidly behind him. Given Nitish’s dwindling bargaining position vis-a-vis BJP, he is trying to create a block within NDA to assert jointly.'
On the other hand, JD-U is placating Shyam Rajak, arguably, the last major Dalit face left with the party. It needs to be mentioned that a few weeks after the collapse of Grand Alliance Shyam Rajak was seen jointly addressing the press conference with Uday Narayan Chaudhry. This alarmed the party. However, nowadays, he has often been seen in close company of the JD-U president.
In another significant move, Nitish Kumar on Ambedkar’s birthday announced the inclusion of Dusads in the list of Mahadalit castes. Incidentally, he made this announcement at a function organized by Dalit Sena, an outfit floated by Ram Vilas Paswan. LJP supremo thanked Bihar CM for the gesture. In effect, now all the Dalit sub castes are under Mahadalit category.