In another gambit before the announcement of the Bihar Assembly polls, the Nitish Kumar Cabinet gave its nod to two major moves — creation of a dedicated fund for fencing of temples in the state and inclusion of two of the numerically strongest Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs), Nishad (Mallah) and Nonia, in the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe category. Cabinet Secretary Shishir Sinha confirmed the decisions taken by the state government.
In the battle of poll sops between the Centre and the state, the temple fencing fund is being seen an another deft move by the Nitish Kumar government.
“Just as Nitish had succeeded in sending a message to Muslims with the government earmarking funds for fencing of cemeteries, the CM has deftly tried to reach out to the majority Hindus by creating a temple fencing fund,” said a senior JD (U) leader. He, however, added that the move should have come much earlier and sent the right message across by resolving some temple-related land disputes.
The inclusion of EBCs — Nishad and Nonia — in SC/ST category, according to sources, is another masterstroke that will help Nitish Kumar “win over” the section that is the most populous among the 130-odd EBCs and accounts for about 30 per cent of the state’s population.
With the forthcoming polls sharply divided on caste lines, despite much hue and cry over development, the EBCs are likely to play the game changer.
Reacting to the development, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said: “It is nothing but a conspiracy to dupe Nishads, who were not given their due in the last 10 years. How can Nitish government include Nishads in Dalit category when it can be done only through a Constitutional amendment by the Centre. Then state government is also exploring the option to put Nishads in the scheduled tribe category. Is it not a poll sop?”
Ajay Nishad, the BJP MP from Muzaffarpur, accused the state government of treating the community as a football in a political game.