Ni­tish Goes Head­hunt­ing

The Bi­har CM taps into tribal re­sent­ment against old foe Das

India Today - - STATES - By Amitabh Sri­vas­tava

Ni­tish Ku­mar did not name Raghubar Das. But ad­dress­ing the pre­dom­i­nantly tribal au­di­ence at his Jhark­hand bachao sarkar gi­rao ab­hiyan rally in Ranchi on May 18, the Bi­har chief min­is­ter drew loud cheers when he ques­tioned the sanc­tity of a “non-tribal be­com­ing chief min­is­ter. It’s against the spirit of Jhark­hand’s cre­ation, as it was carved out of Bi­har for its dis­tinct tribal iden­tity and to pro­tect tribal in­ter­ests”.

While their re­la­tion­ship has al­ways been ad­ver­sar­ial, this was the first time the usu­ally mod­er­ate Ni­tish, who has rarely raised iden­tity is­sues, ques­tioned Raghubar’s non-tribal lin­eage. The un­usual tenor of his speech made it ev­i­dent that Ni­tish has de­signs on Jhark­hand. The Bi­har CM ap­par­ently sees an op­por­tu­nity to make in­roads in Jhark­hand in the wake of the Raghubar gov­ern­ment’s in­tem­per­ate han­dling of tribal is­sues, like the re­cent con­tro­ver­sial amend­ments to the Chotanag­pur Ten­ancy Act (CNT) and the San­thal Par­gana Ten­ancy Act (SPT).

After first try­ing the or­di­nance route in July 2016, the CM, in Novem­ber last year, pushed the amend­ments to the two laws—which are meant to safe­guard tribal lands—through the assem­bly. Gov­er­nor Droupadi Murmu, though, is yet to give her as­sent. At the Ranchi rally, Ni­tish openly called on her to re­ject the amend­ments “in the larger in­ter­ests of the state”.

Ini­tially bullish that the tribal com­mu­nity would sup­port the amend­ments—which pro­pose to open up tribal hold­ings for com­mer­cial use—the Jhark­hand CM too ap­pears to have de­vel­oped cold feet. This was after the BJP lost suc­ces­sive by­elec­tions in which op­po­si­tion par­ties held up his CNT and SPT pro­pos­als as ‘anti-tribal’.

Ni­tish’s JD(U), which once had a de­ci­sive say in gov­ern­ment for­ma­tion in Jhark­hand, cur­rently has no rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the assem­bly. Now, be­sides his old as­so­ci­a­tion with vet­er­ans like Bab­u­lal Marandi, he’s found an­other ally in Salkhan Murmu, a former MP and noted tribal leader, who helped or­gan­ise the May 18 rally. There’s no love lost be­tween Raghubar and Ni­tish since the former snubbed him over his pet ob­ses­sion: pro­hi­bi­tion.

NI­TISH OPENLY ASKED THE GOV­ER­NOR TO RE­JECT THE AMEND­MENTS

SOM­NATH SEN

GET IT ON Ni­tish Ku­mar at the Ranchi rally

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