Twenty-eight years after the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in August 1990 and on the centenary celebration (August 25) of the birth of its author, former Bihar chief minister BP Mandal, an idea of a different type of socio-political alliance has been floated.
This combination is a departure from the past as no mention has been made for the inclusion of Kurmis, the caste to which the present Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar belongs. It was proposed by none other than Union minister of state for human resources development Upendra Kushwaha while addressing a function to mark the birthday of late Mandal, who originally hailed from Madhepura district of Bihar.
The Rashtriya Lok Samata Party leader used the metaphor of ‘kheer’ to explain how a new alliance can be formed with the help of the milk of Yaduvanshi, that is Yadavs, and rice of Kushvanshi, or Koeris or Kushwahas.
Incidentally, Upendra had in the process avoided taking on Prime Minister Narendra modi and like ‘Brutus in an honourable man’ (Shakespeare’s Jullius Caesear) keeps ranting that he would return to power in 2019
Both Yadavs and Koeris are influential intermediate castes of Bihar. While the former are engaged in milk business the latter are essentially agrarian. Numerically these two castes are strongest in the state and a rough estimate suggest that they form just less than one-fifth of the state population.
It was the Yadavs, Koeris and Kurmis who in the 1930s joined hands to form Triveni Sangh. In the post Mandal era they form the mainstay of the then Janata Dal, which split in 1994 with Nitish Kumar, along with some other, walking away to form first Samata Party and later Janata Dal (United). In the process he took away a sizeable chunk of Kurmis and Koeris with him and thus seriously diminished the strength of the then chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who however managed to survive till 2005.
Upendra’s latest proposal was immediately okayed by the leader of opposition in Bihar Assembly, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.
If the idea really clicks it may cause sleepless nights to many in the NDA camp as Upendra did not stop there. He said that ‘kheer’ is not just made of rice and milk but needs other ingredients too. So there is need to take the support of Extremely Backward Castes and Dalits too in this combination.
The problems with Koeris in Bihar is that while Yadavs have Lalu Prasad and Nitish is no doubt the tallest leader of Kurmis, they have no such figure though numerically they are second only to Yadavs and have all-Bihar presence. In 1970s and 1980s there were several prominent Koeri leaders in the Socialist parties and even associated with the Naxal movement.
What several caste leaders resent is the way in which Nitish did not let any Koeri to emerge and projected himself as the leader of both the castes. In Bihar, Kurmis and Koeris are equated with Luv and Kush, two sons of Ram and Sita.
But Upendra is considered as an ambitious man whose eyes are fixed on the post of chief minister. Political pundits recall as to how he was ushered in to the Janata Dal (United) by Nitish in 2010 and sent to Rajya Sabha on the party ticket. But, by the time Assembly election took place in October-Novmeber the same year his relationship strained, especially over the distribution of tickets. He soon left the party and three years later formed RLSP. And the moment Nitish made a homecoming to the NDA last year he started feeling uncomfortable and gave signs that he may leave the NDA.
Incidentally, Upendra had in the process avoided taking on Prime Minister Narendra modi and like ‘Brutus in an honourable man’ (Shakespeare’s Jullius Caesear) keeps ranting that he would return to power in 2019.
But nothing is predictable in this game of politics.