NEWS ANALYSIS Other States

Battle for Karpoori Thakur's legacy on in Bihar

Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, JD (U) president Sharad Yadav and former CM Nitish Kumar at a function to mark the birth anniversary of late Karpoori Thakur in Patna on Saturday. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, JD (U) president Sharad Yadav and former CM Nitish Kumar at a function to mark the birth anniversary of late Karpoori Thakur in Patna on Saturday. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

If the Janata Dal-United was hoping to revive former Bihar Chief Minister and EBC icon Karpoori Thakur’s legacy ahead of the assembly elections in the eastern State later this year, it is now facing stiff competition from the BJP. On Friday, as the JD-U celebrated Karpoori Thakur’s birth anniversary in Patna, an annual feature for the party, BJP president Amit Shah, launching his Mission Bihar, held a rival function in memory of the socialist leader.  

Mr. Shah used the occasion to hit out at former Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, saying he had no moral right to talk of Karpoori Thakur, who believed in anti-Congressism, as he had taken Congress support to save his government in the state. Only the BJP, he stressed, had worked for the backward and oppressed communities and people had reposed their faith in the party by making an OBC — Narendra Modi — Prime Minister of the country.  

Of course, for the BJP, this is the second year that it is celebrating Karpoori Thakur’s birth anniversary: last year, it was union home minister Rajnath Singh who had taken the initiative. The JD(U) had then sought to neutralise  the BJP by nominating Karpoori Thakur’s son Ramnath Thakur to the Rajya Sabha.  

Responding to the BJP’s renewed efforts to appropriate Karpoori Thakur, senior JD-U functionary KC Tyagi shot back: “It was the Jan Sangh (the BJP’s predecessor) component of the Janata Party that had dethroned Karpooriji as CM, replacing him with Ram Sundardass. After including Congress icons like Sardar Patel in its own pantheon at the Centre, the BJP is now trying to wrest Karpooriji’s legacy in Bihar.”  

The BJP made its intentions very clear: at the Patna function, organised by the State BJP’s EBC Morcha, it placed Karpoori Thakur’s portrait between two of its own icons -- Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Former deputy CM Sushil Modi and other leaders were at pains to explain the Jan Sangh’s role in making Karpoori Thakur CM, while remaining silent on why he failed to complete his term.  

For the BJP, primarily identified with the powerful Bhumihars and other upper castes, drawing in other castes is critical to winning the assembly elections. This is especially as JD-U will join hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal to form a Yadav-Kurmi-Muslim combine. The BJP is therefore focussing on the non-Yadav-Kurmi OBCs as it did in the general elections and the mahadalits. The party already has Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, a dalit belonging to the powerful Paswan community, on its side, even as it has been making overtures to the mahadalits by opening a line of communication with Jitan Ram Manjhi, the JD-U’s Chief Minister, a mahadalit himself. Mr. Manjhi has been under pressure from the JD-U leadership ever since he demonstrated that he had ambitions of his own has been openly entertaining BJP leaders: earlier this week, he had a long meeting with union MoS from Bihar and BJP leader Ram Kripal Yadav.  

Indeed, Mr. Manjhi, on Saturday entered the Karpoori Thakur sweepstakes when he spoke at the first lecture series on the eve of birth anniversary of the former Chief Minister at the Legislative Council auditorium in Patna: in an hour-long speech, he outlined his agenda of empowering the poor and checking pilferage within the government, even as he hit out – if obliquely – at JD(U) strongman Nitish Kumar's loyalists, including senior Ministers.  

The battle for Bihar is truly joined.


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Printable version | May 15, 2022 3:34:04 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Battle-for-Karpoori-Thakurs-legacy-on-in-Bihar/article60105855.ece