Nitish Kumar woos Nalanda with talk of development, not caste

May 5th, 2009 - 6:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Patna, May 5 (IANS) In Bihar’s caste based politics, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is striking a different chord by focussing on development while campaigning on his home turf Nalanda. But the Kurmi community, to which Nitish Kumar belongs, is aware that it can’t let him down in the Lok Sabha constituency that it dominates.
Nitish Kumar, who seems certain of his caste men’s support, has fielded a relatively unknown Kaushalendra Kumar, also a Kurmi, on the seat that goes to the polls May 7.

The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief has been canvassing for Kaushalendra Kumar in the name of development without playing the caste card.

“We will vote for Nitish Kumar’s development agenda. We are aware that his prestige is at stake and we will not do anything to put him in trouble. After all, he belongs to our caste,” Anant Kumar, a government official in Nalanda, told IANS.

The sitting MP in Nalanda, about 100 km from here, is Ramswaroop Prasad. He was elected to parliament in 2004 on a JD-U ticket but later defected to the Congress. This year he is contesting the polls as a Congress candidate.

The other politician in the poll fray is Satish Kumar of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which is in alliance with Railways Minister Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

Ramswaroop Prasad and Satish Kumar also belong to the Kurmi community, which might be the reason why Kaushalendra Kumar has been talking about Nitish Kumar’s development initiatives to woo voters.

“There is no strong rival for the JD-U in Nalanda. The development work that the chief minister has undertaken is the focus of our campaign and we are sure that people will appreciate all the efforts he has made to improve infrastructure in the region,” said Shivanand Tiwari, national spokesperson for the JD-U.

Gyanu Singh, a JD-U legislator who has been on the campaign trail with Nitish Kumar, said: “The chief minister has proved his commitment by improving people’s access to basic amenities. Development is the only issue he has brought up during the campaign and no other party can counter that.”

In the last two years, Nitish Kumar has implemented plans to provide his home district metalled roads, an international university, and improve law and order. He has also announced an economic package of Rs.5 billion for Nalanda, where nearly 50 percent of the 1.2 million electorate is Kurmi.

“Nitish Kumar chose Kaushalendra Kumar for the seat. If he loses, it would not only be a major personal setback, it would also put a big question mark on his development agenda,” said Mithlesh Singh, a Nalanda businessman who belongs to the Kurmi community.

Besides his own caste men, Nitish Kumar is trying to capitalise on the split in the Muslim support base of Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan by projecting himself as more secular.

JD-U sources said the chief minister is also depending on the Extremely Backward Castes (EBC) and Maha Dalits - two sections created by him. The EBC were provided 20 percent reservation in Panchayati Raj institutions and a special package was announced for the Maha Dalits.

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