Patna: A day ahead of the first round of the six-phase Bihar Assembly Elections, a rebel leader of the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) on Wednesday appealed to farmers not to vote for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
In an appeal published in local Hindi dailies, Rajeev Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh cautioned people, particularly farmers, that the return of Nitish Kumar would mean a new law to protect sharecroppers - tenant farmers who till the land and give part of the crop to the landowner in lieu of rent.
Singh, the JD-U MP from Munger who belongs to the powerful Bhumihar landed upper caste, warned against a civil war in the state on the issue.
The MP resigned as state party president earlier this year and has since been waging virtual war against Nitish Kumar.
In his quarter-page advertisement on behalf of the Kisan Mahapanchayat, he accused Nitish Kumar of misleading people by saying there were no plans to enact a new law to protect sharecroppers.
According to Singh, if Nitish Kumar was not going to enact the new law, he would have rejected the recommendations of the D Bandopadhyay Commission that said sharecroppers should get legal right over the land.
"It is now clear that Nitish Kumar will enact a new law to protect sharecroppers if voted to power for second time," Lalan Singh said, adding that the JD-U manifesto was also silent on the issue, underscoring Nitish Kumar`s ambiguity on this.
He compared Nitish Kumar with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad.
"There`s no difference between Lalu and Nitish. If Lalu was showing the ghost of the BJP to Muslims, Nitish is showing the ghost of Lalu to the people, saying `jungle raj` will be back if they don`t support him."
Both the `Chhota Bhai` (Nitish) and `Bada Bhai` (Lalu) should be gotten rid of "for peace, prosperity and development of Bihar", he said.
Months before the campaign began, Nitish Kumar had assured the upper castes that their land was safe and his government had no plans to enact a new law to protect sharecroppers.
In Bihar, members of the upper castes, particularly the Bhumihars and Rajputs, own large tracts of land in rural areas.
In July last year, the Bandopadhayay Commission on land reforms suggested that the state government bring in a new act to protect sharecroppers. It also recommended a cap on land ownings and computerising land records.
Nearly 50 percent of Bihar`s 83 million people live below the poverty line, the highest in India, according to a World Bank report.
The first phase of the elections kicks off Thursday. The process ends on November 20 and votes will be counted four days later on November 24.