Nitish Kumar seeks special status for Bihar at Bhim Sansad

Criticised for his controversial remark on population control, and for allegedly humiliating former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, the Bihar CM capitalises on the success of the ‘Bhim Sansad’

Updated - November 27, 2023 02:12 am IST

Published - November 26, 2023 07:50 pm IST - Patna

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses the people of Dalit community at Patna’s Verterinary ground on Sunday during Bheem Sansad, on November 25, 2023. 

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses the people of Dalit community at Patna’s Verterinary ground on Sunday during Bheem Sansad, on November 25, 2023.  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Apparently impressed by the massive ‘Bhim Sansad’ gathering of Scheduled Caste (SC) communities organised by his party, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday said senior BJP leaders in Delhi should “take lessons” from the event.

In a bid to reach out to SC communities ahead of the Lok Sabha election, the JD(U) organised the rally at the Bihar Veterinary College Ground here. Mr. Kumar was the chief guest at the event. The rally was also a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been targeting Mr. Kumar for allegedly humiliating former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi. Mr. Manjhi belongs to an SC community and hails from underprivileged circumstances.

Mr. Kumar has recently invited criticism from some sections of voters and from his political opponents, including Mr. Modi, over his controversial remarks on population control in the State Assembly (for which he later apologised), followed by his remark on Mr. Manjhi. Mr. Modi has slammed Mr. Kumar at election rallies in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana over his remark on Mr. Manjhi; the PM also critiqued Mr. Kumar on his comment on population control, but without naming him.

Sunday’s rally, however, attracted a large turnout of people, including women, from Mr. Manjhi’s caste, which Mr. Kumar sought to capitalise upon.

“The crowd is not less than two lakh over here because I could easily see that people were standing outside in large numbers. In fact, this programme should have been organised at Gandhi Maidan. I have been Chief Minister for 18 years and I have never ever seen such a huge gathering at this place. I must congratulate Ashok Choudhary-ji for organising this event,” Mr. Kumar said.

A prominent SC leader and Minister of the Building Construction Department, Mr. Choudhary toured different districts across the State for several weeks to mobilise people for the ‘Bhim Sansad’. A massive canopy and platform were erected for event, traffic diversions set-up, and large cut-outs of party leaders, including Mr. Kumar, welcomed visitors to the venue.

Mr. Kumar’s emphasis on the large crowd was a jibe directed at the BJP, which has organised several rallies since he snapped the ties with the saffron party and formed the government with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Congress, and Left parties in Bihar. Union Minister Amit Shah has participated in six rallies, and BJP president J.P. Nadda has held two public meetings after Mr. Kumar parted ways with the BJP. 

“I have been working for you people and after seeing this huge crowd, it will motivate me to work more aggressively. The people who are ruling in Delhi and doing publicity all over must see this huge gathering and take lessons from it,” Mr. Kumar said.    

He once again reiterated the Union government should grant special category status to Bihar so that the State could develop fast. 

Bihar’s recent caste-based survey report has found that SCs (19.6518%), Other Backward Classes or OBCs (27.1286%), and Extremely Backward Classes or EBCs (36.0148%) together account for over 82% of the State’s population. Ahead of the Lok Sabha election of 2024, Bihar’s ruling party is training its lens on these segments for gaining electoral traction.

Earlier, the party launched other programmes, including the ‘Karpoori Pe Charcha’ discussion in honour of late former Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur, who belonged to an EBC community and championed the cause of Backward Classes.

Meanwhile, Lok Jan Shakti Party (Ram Vilas) president Chirag Paswan rapped the JD(U) rally, alleging that atrocities against SCs had increased in Bihar, and Mr. Kumar had insulted Mr. Manjhi. 

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