In the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha election, the ruling Janata Dal (United) in Bihar has launched three separate campaigns aimed at garnering support from three key social groups: ‘Bhaichara Yatra’ (Muslims), ‘Karpoori Charcha’ (Extremely Backward Classes), and ‘Bheem Samvad’ (Dalits).
In the 2019 general election, the JD(U) in alliance with the BJP-led NDA had won 39 out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the State. After parting ways with the BJP last year, the JD(U) needs the backing of the EBCs, which account for 30% of the State’s population, Dalits (16%), and Muslims (16%) to put up a good show in the 2024 poll. Party chief and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will be monitoring all three campaigns.
The JD(U) kick-started the ‘Bhaichara Yatra’ from Narkatiyaganj in West Champaran district on August 1. Party MLC Khalid Anwar is leading the yatra, which will be held in three phases and end in September. Four Lok Sabha and 24 Assembly seats are concentrated in the Muslim-dominated Seemanchal region, comprising Purnea, Kishanganj, Araria, and Katihar districts.
‘Message of peace’
“This yatra will spread the message of brotherhood and peace in society. Bihar needs it the most now because the BJP is engaged in spreading hatred,” said Jama Khan, the lone Muslim Minister from the JD(U) in the mahagathbandhan government, who is taking part in the yatra.
‘Karpoori Charcha’, named after former Bihar Chief Minister and EBC leader Karpoori Thakur, was launched on August 6 and will go on till January 24, 2024. The series of discussions at the block level is aimed at reaching out to the EBC vote bank, which has kept Mr. Kumar in power.
‘Bheem Samvad’, named after Father of the Constitution Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, will be launched on August 15, with JD(U) leaders at the panchayat level visiting the homes of Dalits. The drive will end on August 31, 2023.
“Through these campaigns, the party leaders will spread the word on the work done by the government under the leadership of Mr. Nitish Kumar. He is making efforts to unite the Opposition parties and we want him to project himself as a leader at the national level,” JD(U) State president Umesh Kushwaha told The Hindu.
According to Dr. Sanjay Kumar, a political expert based in Patna, the decision to begin these campaigns ahead of the Lok Sabha poll is a “masterstroke”. “If Dalits, EBCs, and Muslims vote in Mr. Kumar’s favour, then he will emerge the winner,” he said.
Last-ditch attempt: BJP
However, Opposition parties have criticised the strategy. “Since when did the JD(U) start taking out such yatras? They are just fooling helpless Muslims. When they were in an alliance with the BJP, they had supported the NRC. Muslims in Seemanchal are facing poverty. Nitish Kumar is misleading the public,” AIMIM legislator Akhtarul Iman said.
The BJP described the JD(U) as “a sinking ship” and termed the new campaigns “last-ditch attempts at survival”. “Nitish Kumar had signed the death warrant for the JD(U) by aligning with the RJD. He is surviving on the new lease of political life given by [RJD chief] Lalu Prasad. The JD(U) is nearing its end. Any effort to save itself will prove futile,” BJP spokesperson Kuntal Krishna said.