Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s much vaunted refrain of transcending caste-based politics seems to have taken a backseat this crucial assembly election year, with a slew of “confidence yatras” and “raths” designed to appease different castes and communities, suddenly peppering Bihar’s political horizon.
There seems to be no dearth of creativity to this identity politics, as the ruling Janata Dal (United) has ensured there is something for everyone - women, minorities, the backward classes, the upper castes, the Maha Dalits – you name it.
A look at this catalogue would certainly have gladdened the heart of marketing guru Philip Kotler, as every “yatra” is a shrewdly designed political offering - segmented, targeted and positioned to the hilt.
After Mr. Kumar’s “Vishwas Yatra” which kick-started from West Champaran this Thursday, the Janata Dal (United) will be undertaking no less than seven such “yatras,” with the aim of wooing every caste and community in the state.
The “Karpoori Rath”, named after the erstwhile Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur, will be launched with the purpose of reinforcing the positive work done by the government in the minds of the extremely backward communities (EBCs).
More theatrics is set to follow in the EBC sphere, with JD (U) leader and RJD defector, Dr. Bhim Singh all set to launch his “Dhanyavad Yatra” whose purpose will be to thank Mr.Kumar for his efforts in improving the lot of the EBC community in the State.
Next in line is the “Aman Yatra,” which is specifically targeted at the Muslim population of the state with the ostensible aim to remind them of the riot-free atmosphere generated by Mr. Kumar during his four year term.
Women too have a customised offering in the form of “Swavlamban (Self-reliance) yatra”, which will stress on the various steps undertaken by the NDA government for their uplift during the last four and a half years.
Ditto is the case with the “Nirbhay Rath” targeted at the Vaishya (Bania) community with the purpose of “reminding” the state’s traders of the commerce-friendly law and order situation created by the ruling party.
“They are necessary to check the vicious disinformation campaigns undertaken by the opposition parties,” JD (U) state president, Mr. Vijay Choudhary had remarked earlier.
“These tactics are designed to quell dissent within the party as well as keep its functionaries engaged in this crucial election year. Naturally, it is also to prevent the inevitable horse-trading that is bound to follow before the polls,” says Akhilesh Kumar, a senior journalist and political observer.
Meanwhile, the anti-Nitish Kumar dissident lobby, prominent among who is ex-JD (U) state president Rajiv Ranjan Lallan Singh, will be launching a “Kisan Maha panchayat” on May 9 with the aim of inciting the upper-castes against Mr. Kumar, especially on the latter’s proposed action to give tenancy rights to ‘bataidars’ (sharecroppers) in the state.
Among the opposition parties, only the Congress has started something of this kind so far, with its 50-day “Parivartan Yatra (change inducing journey)” taking off in February this year.
The event, which was launched with state-in charge Jagdish Tytler and state President Anil Kumar Sharma mouthing a litany of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s past crimes and misdemeanours and lashing out at the ruling NDA government, already seems to have lost its steam with severe internal wrangling paralysing it.