ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nitish Kumar's Honourable Exit

A Brief History of Caste Politics

Nitish Kumar's exit from the National Democratic Alliance may be an honourable one, but he will have to shed his neo-liberal "developmentalist" leanings if he wants to fight the feudal and communal forces that have taken root in Bihar. This article presents a brief history of the politics in Bihar that have led to this break between Nitish Kumar and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA.

I would like to thank Saumyajit Bhattacharya and Chirashree Dasgupta for discussions on the issue.

The exit of Nitish Kumar from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has raised many interesting questions about Indian politics lately. The idea that Nitish Kumar decided to break away from the NDA owing to constraints of his carefully engineered Muslim “vote bank” has emerged as common sense. However, this is only partly the case. The deeper reasons for his exit from NDA have to be sought from politics in Bihar.

At the outset, it is significant to note that Nitish Kumar has not been alien to any political tendency present in the Indian political spectrum. Though he portrays Lalu Prasad Yadav as a politician preoccupied with caste, Nitish Kumar himself was one of the first politicians in Bihar to organise a caste-based Kurmi rally in early 1992. He tried his luck with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) – Liberation during the assembly elections in 1995. He has been with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since the 1996 parliamentary elections and it was only much later that he transformed himself into a vikas purush.

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