Presidential election 2017: The JD(U) has announced its support for the BJP Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, former governor of Bihar, a Dalit. The reason behind this is that his party is pressed by a few election realities. Quite a few Dalit communities, most of them known as Mahadalits, in Bihar associate themselves with Kovind’s community, reported the Indian Express. Kovind identifies himself as a non-Jatav Dalit from the Koli community who hails from Uttar Pradesh. This stems from the fact that JD(U) in February 2015 had asked for the resignation of then Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, which led to an estrangement with the Mahadalit community, a failing they do not want to repeat this year.Bihar’s CM Nitish Kumar, after his resignation from the post of nine years, wanted Manjhi, a Dalit from the Musahar community, to replace him. When an altercation arose between Manjhi and Nitish, the former handed back the reigns to the current CM. The BJP used this as an anti-Dalit response on Nitish’s part, according to the Indian Express.
“Like Paswans in Bihar, Jatavs are the dominant caste in UP. The Mahadalits in Bihar identify with non Jatav Dalits of UP. After the Manjhi episode, we could not have afforded anything else. We would have been in the line of fire for putting obstacles in a Dalit’s path to the country’s top constitutional post,” a JD(U) leader told the Indian Express. However, opposition members are not impressed. BJP made Nitish, the only one from the Opposition, a member of a national committee for the celebration of Jana Sangh’s Deendayal Upadhyaya’s birth centenary.
Nitish also praised the surgical strikes and the demonetization drive by the NDA government. The support to the Presidential candidate comes shortly after he suggested a common candidate from the Opposition, according to the Indian Express. Speculation is rife that Nitish is getting closer to the BJP, with whom he had an alliance for 17 years before breaking off in 2013 after supporting then Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee.