PATNA: Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai on Sunday went into damage control exercise after Union minister and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) national president Upendra Kushwaha’s remarks that ‘good milk and rice delicacy called kheer’ could be made with the “milk from Yadavs and rice from Kushwahas” and “dry fruits from EBC groups”, obliquely suggesting that the Bihar NDA had developed cracks and political realignment was possible in the state before the 2019 parliamentary elections.
As people of various castes traditionally had their caste-specific professions, milk has got equated with Yadavs, rice and vegetables with Kushwaha or Koeris, both from the backward castes, while ‘pachpanias’ are traditionally considered the extremely backward caste (EBC) groups.
Kushwaha, addressing his party’s function here on Saturday, had also talked about adding ‘panchmewa (dry fruits) – euphemism for the ‘pachpania’ castes – to the ‘kheer’, suggesting the formation of ‘tasty, nutritious and healthy” broad coalition of the Yadavs, Kushwahas and EBCs. It, in turn, was immediately seen as an overture to the RJD and leader of opposition in the state assembly Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.
“It is true that in our culture milk, rice and ‘kheer’ have symbolic value. Whatever Kushwaha said should not be read in parts, nor should much meaning be attached to it,” Rai said while reacting to the statement made by Kushwaha after listening the ‘Mann ki Baat’ broadcast of PM Narendra Modi at the state BJP headquarters.
“It is also a fact that Kushwaha has always maintained that his target is to make Narendra Modi the country’s PM again after the 2019 parliamentary elections,” Rai said.
“We should take note of the sentiment of Kushwaha in the backdrop of what he has repeatedly said about the PM and should not be read in parts out of context,” Rai also said, adding: “Milk, rice and dry fruits are for the country. Therefore, Kushwaha wants to also say that tasty ‘kheer’ prepared is also for the country.”
Rai has suggested that anything that is for the country is for the BJP.
Much as Rai went into damage control mode on Sunday, Tejashwi seemingly relished the possibility of realignment of parties that Kushwaha suggested by using the metaphor of ‘kheer’. In a tweet, he said, “Undoubtedly Upendra ji, delicious and nutritious kheer is necessary for working class. Health benefits from ‘panchmewa’ not only provide energy to the body but are also helpful in building healthy and equitable society.”
“Kheer prepared with love and affection is a delicious, energetic and full of nutritious value. This is a good dish,” Tejashwi added in his tweet.
However, echoing the concerns of Rai, the RLSP functionaries on Sunday also maintained that Kushwaha had spoken in terms of ‘milk, rice, kheer and panchmewa’ only to broaden the base of his party and in no situation should it be deemed that he was not with the NDA.