Former Bihar Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary resigned from the primary membership of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) on May 2, exactly a month after he participated in protests against the dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act in Patna. Chaudhary is the third Dalit leader of the NDA to criticise Nitish Kumar for “anti-Dalit policies of the state government”.
Incidentally, all the three Dalit leaders hail from Gaya district, which is still known for Maoist-related violence.
First, former chief minister and leader of the Hindustani Awam Morcha, Jitan Ram Manjhi quit the on February 28. While leaving, he charged Nitish with stuffing the jails of Bihar with Dalits and Extremely Backward Castes––all in the name of imposing prohibition. He has repeatedly been claiming that the state administration is not touching the big and powerful who are violating the prohibition law.
Then, on the intervening night of April 27-28, Gaya SSP Garima Malik was transferred and shunted to the post of Commandant of BMP-10. Though many other administrative and police officials were shifted on that night, the transfer of Garima raised eyebrows as it came just four days after the arrest of of Rahul Manjhi, the son of Gaya BJP MP, Hari Manjhi.
Rahul, along with his friend, were arrested from Bodh Gaya for violating the prohibition law. His arrest raised a storm as many Dalits are of the view that had Rahul been the son of any upper caste MP, nobody would have dared to touch him.
His father Hari Manjhi directly accused the Gaya police of taking revenge from him as it was he who had complained the to the SSP that policemen are involved in illegal liquor business in Gaya.
As Hari Manjhi had in the past too criticised his own party, the BJP, the state government as a damage limitation exercise hurriedly transferred Garima, who was otherwise considered quite close to the state establishment.
It needs to be mentioned that in 2014 Lok Sabha election, Hari Manjhi defeated Jitan Ram Manjhi, who then contested on the Janata Dal (United) ticket. It was just after this defeat that Nitish resigned from his post and made Jitan Ram Manjhi the chief minister of Bihar. It is another matter that the entire move backfired.
Uday Narayan Chaudhary’s resignation from the JD(U) has come at a very inopportune time for the chief minister, when his government is busy trying to remove the impression that it is not anti-Dalit as far as crackdown on liquor mafia is concerned.
Chaudhary had been sulking ever since he lost the assembly election from his own constituency, Imamganj, and that too at the hands of Jitan Ram Manjhi. The latter was the lone HAM candidate to win in 2015. HAM was then a constituent of the NDA.
Chaudhary’s defeat came as a shock, as otherwise the NDA performed badly in the state. Imamganj assembly constituency in Gaya district is still considered a Maoist bastion. Chaudhary had won from this seat many times––even when Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal was ruling Bihar. He first got elected in 1990 when both Nitish and Lalu Prasad were in the erstwhile Janata Dal. Then he won four times between 2000 and 2015 on a JD(U) ticket (Bihar went to polls twice in 2005).
As Chaudhary was considered as somewhat soft towards the Naxals he, according to many political observers, used to win from Imamganj. But that equation failed to click in 2015.
Uday Narayan Chaudhary, who served as the Speaker of Bihar between 2005 and 2015 raised the banner of revolt after Nitish decided to leave the Grand Alliance and rejoin the BJP. As the Speaker of Bihar Assembly he was considered as a prominent Dalit face of Janata Dal (United).
He had been quite busy in anti-NDA activities and a few months back even invited former finance minister Yashwant Sinha to Bihar. While resigning from his post, he came down heavily on both the state government as well as the Narendra Modi government for "anti-Dalit policies”. He was critical of the recent Supreme Court ruling diluting stringent provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.
Jitan Ram, Hari and Uday Narayan might have their personal problems with JD(U) amd BJP, yet the NDA appears to be trouble, given the manner in which they are openly expressing their anger.
The opposition RJD had fully capitalised on the situation and had recently made Jitan Ram’s son, Santosh an MLC.