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Bihar CM Nitish Kumar woos Muslims, Mahadalits & MBCs; BJP to give a tough fight

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By Ashok K Mishra

Patna: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar will now look at strengthening ties with social groups on the fringes of mainstream caste politics to ensure his political survival.

Kumar has, for years, successfully wooed the most backward castes (MBCs) - mainly the non-Yadav OBCs - and Mahadalits, the non-Paswan scheduled castes. These are social groups who feel they have not benefited much from the social engineering experiments following the emergence of Mandal politics in the late 1980s.

They are the ones who feel frustrated about being sidelined by the dominant Yadavs and Paswans.

Kumar's electoral triumph, pundits say, can be attributed to him winning over these sections who are expected to remain loyal to him in the future as well. With the upper castes perceived to be sympathetic towards BJP's poster boy and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, and with Yadavs and Paswans firmly aligned with former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad and Ramvilas Paswan, Nitish will look to step up his efforts towards consolidating his support base among the MBCs and Mahadalits besides wooing Muslims.

JD (U) leaders hope that Muslims in the state may now whole-heartedly embrace him politically. They also expect the Muslims, who constitute 17% of the state's population, to pay him back for a "riot-free" administration.

"Nitishji's track record has been impeccably clean during his seven-year rule. There was not a single communal riot. The Muslims have been able to breathe freely. He reopened the 1989 Bhagalpur communal riot cases and made sure that the accused, who had gone scot-free and were ironically awarded with investitures by the previous RJD-led government, were sent back to the gallows. All this played out as something that went beyond mere symbolism among the minorties," JD(U) lawmaker Ali Anwar told ET.

However, the political realignment will upset the calculations of Lalu who has been pinning hopes on a comeback of sorts after humbling the JD( U) in the recent bye-election to the Maharajganj LS seat. The going will now get tougher for him with Kumar breaking free from the 17-year-old alliance with the saffron party.

Several politicians feel that the Kumar's image as someone who staked his chief ministership to thwart Modi will be a cause of concern for Prasad who will now have to work hard towards protecting his following among the Muslims.

Besides Muslims, Nitish will also need the support of EBCs, who constitute over 25% of the state's electorate; Mahadalits account for 10%. Both the communities have received attention from Nitish Kumar who has capitalised on the failure of his rivals to do so.

(Courtesy: The Economic Times)
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