Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s latest gambit is to bring together those who were part of the JP movement spearheaded by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s, and various mass movements under one non-political platform with the objective of “creating an RSS-mukt Bharat”.
He has worked under various socialist banners in the decades since the 70s for the purpose.
A senior Janata Dal (United) leader told The Hindu that on June 17, 2016 Mr. Kumar addressed a meeting under the banner ‘From JP to VP (Singh)’ at the Constitution Club in New Delhi.
“Those who came included those who had been part of the JP movement, had been jailed during the Emergency, and worked under former Prime Ministers Charan Singh, V.P. Singh and Chandrasekhar,” he said.
“Of course, those from the RSS-BJP stream were excluded. There were people who now belong to parties ranging from the Congress to the JD(U) to the Aam Aadmi Party, but were largely those who are disillusioned by the current day politics,” he added. Those who took part included JD(U)’s K.C. Tyagi, the Congress’ Subodh Kant Sahay, Ravi Nair (an old associate of George Fernandes), Dr. Sunilam (an independent MLA in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly associated with farmers’ movements), journalist Qurban Ali and Professor Raj Kumar Jain.
Expanding footprint Indeed, Mr. Kumar, already engaged in expanding the footprint of the JD(U) in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh ahead of the State’s Assembly elections next year, is now trying to broaden his appeal by using not just this pool of people who had been part of a range of socialist parties that could be broadly described as the Janata Parivar but also by trying to involve those who are part of various mass movements in the country to tap the growing discontent against the BJP.
“Nitish ji wants to become the central point of mass movements in the country,” a JD(U) source said.
Hence, on July 1, at the invitation of activist Medha Patkar, Mr. Kumar will address a range of groups working among tribals, Dalits, women, persons displaced by dams, farmers and other workers at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi. One of the key issues around which Mr. Kumar hopes to mobilise the rural populace in the States — Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Karnataka, and Jammu and Kashmir — from where the invitees of the June 17 meeting came is prohibition. On June 29, he will travel to Jevar in Greater Noida to hold a meeting on prohibition where the local Arya Samajis will honour him for trying to “eradicate the social evil of drinking alcohol.”
Mr. Kumar is also trying, a JD(U) source said, to revive the old socialist trade union, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, once led by George Fernandes.
Simultaneously, Mr. Kumar is working to establish the JD(U) in Uttar Pradesh; his next meeting of party workers in the State is slated for July 23 in Allahabad.
Clearly, Mr. Kumar is working on several tracks, trying to expand his party’s influence, while also attempting to become a rallying force for all those opposed to the present Narendra Modi government ahead of the next general elections in 2019.