Challenge to BJP in 2024: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar Emerging as the Undisputed OBC Leader
Asia News Agency
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has emerged with no political challenger in the space of OBC (Other Backward Classes) politics in the Hindi belt. Despite having political clout of their own, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) (Bihar) and Akhilesh Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (Uttar Pradesh) have reposed faith in the Janata Dal (United) [JD (U)] supremo for him to lead the electoral battle in 2024.
Now, writes Saroor Ahmed (Patna-based freelance journalist) “there is no scenario of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav – the immediate beneficiaries of the implementation of the Mandal Commission report (that recommended reservations for the OBCs) – pulling each other down as they did in 1996. As there was a tussle for supremacy back then, none of them could become the prime minister. Thus, the OBCs from north India squandered a golden opportunity even though the anti-upper caste feeling was strong in the Hindi belt.”
In contrast, now “in the run-up to the 2024 parliament election, there appears to be no tussle in the OBC rank of non-BJP parties in north India. Thus, Kumar, despite being the leader of a party which has only 45 MLAs and 16 Lok Sabha MPs, has a better chance to emerge as the leading light of the OBCs than the much more powerful Lalu and Mulayam then.”
Second-generation Bihar, UP leaders accept Kumar: Lalu, Mulayam and Sharad have now “almost faded and the second-generation leaders (Tejashwi and Akhilesh) are satisfied with their own states, resulting in a scenario where there is no other political leader to challenge Kumar in the OBC politics in north India.
An aspect that goes in favour of the Opposition is that “even the BJP does not have a leader of a such stature among its ranks from the OBC community.”
Besides, writes Ahmed “Nitish Kumar has a long experience in governance with a relatively better track record. Unlike the immediate post-Mandal years’ leaders, Nitish’s support base – may be small – cuts caste and community lines.
“Even in the worst-case scenario, when he contested the 2014 Lok Sabha poll alone, JD (U) got about 15% votes. When he was in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), he would hardly get Muslim votes, which form about 17% of Bihar’s population. Their population in Uttar Pradesh is 19.3%.”
Congress not in a confrontational mode with other Opposition parties: Another aspect that goes in favour of Nitish Kumar is that then, the “Congress was still a player in these two north Indian states, especially in Uttar Pradesh. Today the Grand Old Party is not in a confrontational mode with the JD(U), RJD and Samajwadi Party. In fact, it is now an alliance partner in Bihar and has contested the 2017 UP Assembly poll together with the Samajwadi Party…..”