Patna: Opposition parties today mocked at Nitish Kumar government dalit outreach efforts through slew of welfare measures like Rs 1 lakh monetary assistance to SC/ST students qualifying in prelims of UPSC and Rs 50,000 for clearing the same in state service saying he would not be able to “buy” Dalits by offering them “crumbs.”
The ruling JD(U), however, hit back on rivals saying Nitish Kumar’s track record showed his “unwavering commitment towards the welfare of Dalits” and dismissed the opposition’s criticism as “a manifestation of anxiety”.
The Bihar cabinet had yesterday approved a scheme under which it will give Rs 1 lakh as assistance to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes students who crack the civil services preliminary tests conducted by the UPSC. An assistance of Rs 50,000 will also be given to SC/ST students who clear the PT (preliminary test) for civil services exams conducted by the Bihar Public Services Commission (BPSC).
Former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s party Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) spokesman Danish Rizwan in a statement said “The Nitish Kumar government is trying to buy out dalits by offering them crumbs. It needs to be remembered that dalits are not for sale.”
Manjhi, a dalit himself and an erstwhile loyalist of Kumar had quit the JD(U) and floated his own party in 2015 after being forced to step down to make way for his mentor.
On the eve of bypolls on Araria and two assembly seats in Bihar recently he left NDA to join hands with Lalu Prasad. Principal opposition party RJD also took a potshots at Kumar for trying to endear dalits ahead of next year general election.
“Nitish Kumar is wary of growing resentment of dalits against the BJP-led NDA of which he is a part. He is also worried that the BJP may not offer him a respectable number of seats in the next Lok Sabha polls which would make his diminished stature all too obvious. Yesterdays cabinet decisions are aimed at avoiding the impending crisis,” RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary told PTI.
Tiwary, who was with the JD(U) till 2014, alleged “the pro-dalit stance of Kumar is yet another instance of his never-ending attempts to keep changing his political goalposts. First, it was communalism, then it was corruption, now it is dalits. He is a shrewd observer and must have taken note of the anger that was on display during the recent Bharat Bandh called by SC and ST organizations.”
However, JD(U) MLC Ashok Choudhary rubbished the allegations levelled by the opposition parties, saying facts on record show that Nitish Kumars commitment towards the welfare of Dalits has been unwavering.
“The states budget for the welfare of SCs and STs, which was less than Rs 50 crore when he (Kumar) took over in 2005, is now more than Rs 1000 crore. It was he who thought of setting up a separate department for the welfare of the depressed classes,” Choudhary said.
Choudhary, himself a dalit, is a former state Congress president who quit the party in March this year and joined the JD(U).
He said “it is well-known that candidates appearing for competitive examinations and students living in hostels face a number of financial problems. The decisions taken by the cabinet to help Dalit students on clearing preliminary tests for union and state public services commission were well thought out. Rants by the opposition parties are just a manifestation of anxiety.”