Nishads emerge as major vote bank in UP elections
For the first time in Uttar Pradesh, the Nishads have emerged as an important vote bank in the Purvanchal region.
The Nishads have consolidated themselves to such an extent that no political party can afford to ignore the community.
The community includes sub-castes like Manjhi, Kevat, Bind, Mallah and refers to the fishermen and boatmen community that lives along the banks of rivers and thrives on water resources.
They are among the 17 OBC communities that have been proposed for the Scheduled Caste status by the Samajwadi Party (SP) government in 2004 and then in 2016. The state government issued a government order for inclusion of these caste groups in the list of Scheduled Castes but the Allahabad High Court stayed the decision.
This Lok Sabha election marks a turnaround for the Nishad community that has acquired political bargaining power and have been acknowledged by all major political parties.
Nishads began consolidating into a political group in 2013 when the Rashtriya Nishad Ekta Parishad was set up.
To unite Nishads, a Rashtriya Nishad Ekta Parishad was constituted in January 2013. The organisation still exists. To mark a political presence, the Nishad party was registered in August 2016, and made its debut in the UP elections in 2017 and contested 62 seats though it won only in Bhadohi.
The Nishads (Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal) is now a political force with the slogan "Jiska dal uska bal, uski samasyaon ka hal (power rests with those who are a group, only they have the power to solve problems)".
Pravin Nishad, son of the Nishad Party President Sanjay Nishad, asserted the importance of his community when he won the Gorakhpur by-election last year on a Samajwadi ticket, defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He is now contesting the Sant Kabir Nagar seat on a BJP ticket.
Raju Nishad, a member of the Nishad Party, said: "We have to contest on another party's ticket because their symbol is popular. Parties are clamouring to give tickets to Nishads and till we establish our own party, flag and symbol, we will follow this strategy."
To assert their identities, most of the Nishad community members have started suffixing 'Nishad' to their first names.
The Nishads have demanded installation of a statue of 'Nishad Raj' and the BJP and SP have promised to do so at the earliest.
The community also has its own newspaper "Eklavya Manav Sandesh', edited by Jaswant Nishad.
The Nishads, according to sources in the party, has a sizeable presence in 152 of the 403 Assembly constituencies. They have a sizeable population in 19 Lok Sabha constituencies, prominent among them are Bhadohi, Jaunpur, Azamgarh, Kushinagar, Ghosi, Deoria, Basti, Dumariaganj, Salempur, Varanasi, Ballia and Sultanpur. IANS