Bihar Chief Minister Jeetan Ram Manjhi has raked up fresh controversy by suggesting that Dalit youths should marry people from other castes and increase their population to become a “political strength”.
Addressing a function at a welfare hostel in the state capital on Thursday evening, he said, “I would like to advise scheduled caste youths to go for more and more inter-caste marriages. If we take our population from 15 to 22 per cent, we will become a political strength. Any party that gets 22 per cent votes comes to power. What I am saying has political meanings.”
The comment drew sharp reaction not only from Opposition BJP, but also from his own party JD(U) with several leaders questioning him for speaking against “spirit of national population control policy”.
BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi told The Indian Express: “How can a state chief minister speak like this? Though we welcome inter-caste marriages, but what it has to do with population increase. Manjhi has spoken against population control policy.” He also said the the CM’s statement was “bereft of logic as Dalits already have good fertility rate”.
“When the country is talking about population control, Manjhi is talking of increasing it for political purpose,” said Modi.
Taking exception to the CM’s statement, party national spokesperson K C Tyagi said: “Though we laud the CM’s statement on inter-caste marriages, something promoted even by Mahatma Gandhi, we do not subscribe to his opinion on population increase.”
The statement is being seen in context of “ultra Dalit politics” that culminated in Nitish Kumar offering CM chair to Manjhi, a Mahadalit. JD(U) government has been embarking on over a dozen dalit welfare programmes and takes 16 per cent Dalits as its major constituency.
This is not the first time Manjhi has forced his party on a backfoot. A fortnight ago, Manjhi had ended up attacking much-touted development model of his predecessor by saying that “Nitish might well have brought manifold progress to Bihar, but failed to curb corruption”. Manjhi had conceded that even he had to pay bribe to reduce his inflated electricity bill.
JD(U) sources said the more the party had been wishing to bring Nitish on forefront, the more Manjhi “would come to limelight with some controversial remarks”.