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If NDA Trinity Gets More Than 10 Seats in Bihar, I Will Quit Politics: ‘Son of Mallah’ Mukesh Sahni

Mallah community leader who recently switched over to the UPA side, said that he will continue his fight for reservations.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:December 27, 2018, 12:28 PM IST
If NDA Trinity Gets More Than 10 Seats in Bihar, I Will Quit Politics: ‘Son of Mallah’ Mukesh Sahni
File photo of Mukesh Sahni

New Delhi: Mukesh Sahni, the Mallah community leader who had campaigned for Narendra Modi in 2014, has now jumped ship to the Congress-led UPA. Speaking to News18.com, the ‘Son of Mallah’ says he’s confident that the ruling NDA wouldn’t return to power in 2019. He adds that despite switching sides, he is determined to take forward the fight for reservations for Mallahas, descendants of the traditional boatmen and fishing community.

Edited excerpts:

You campaigned for Narendra Modi in 2014. What made you join the UPA now?

We launched the Vikasheel Insaan Party on November 4 with the aim of securing reservations for Mallahs. There are two political streams one can join currently — UPA or NDA. I always chose the NDA. Ahead of 2014 elections, I supported Narendra Modi’s campaign in Bihar and was able to help him get three Lok Sabha constituencies —Samstipur, Darbangha and Madhubani. I was there with BJP chief Amit Shah in 41 rallies. I lent them support because I wanted reservations for my community.

What are your views on the new seat-sharing formula between the BJP, JD(U) and LJP in Bihar?

Conduct an exit poll now and you will see that they won’t get more than 10 seats. If they do, I will quit politics. Their alliance has no support from major castes in Bihar. In states like UP and Bihar, you cannot afford to alienate caste leaders. They have lost the Kushwahas, Manjhis, Muslims, Yadavs and now Nishads. The Baniyas and forward castes will not be lending their full support to them either.

The NDA in Bihar is going to have Paswans. They field their family members from most of the seats. People will not buy this politics. If the LJP gets six seats, then family members of Ram Vilas Paswan will contest on four. On the other hand, by giving the top job to Prashant Kishore, Nitish Kumar has disappointed his aides and colleagues who have been with him for years.

NDA didn’t win elections in Bihar in 2015. How did you take forward your demand for reservations and what was Nitish Kumar’s response?

Nishad samaaj has reservation in other states like Bengal and Delhi, so Mallahs should also get reservations in Bihar. Before 1947, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand were one, so if one section is getting the benefits of reservation, the other should also be getting that. Fisherman are all one and the Constitution gives equal rights to all. We started our agitation in 2015 and were lathi-charged. Later, he sent the proposal of reservation to the central government.

The NDA government at the Centre asked him on what grounds do they wish to give us reservations. The state government was asked to prepare an ethnography report. After a lot of pressure, the report was prepared and sent to the central government, but nothing happened after that.

We agitated against the inaction as Modi had assured us reservation. We don’t want their support now, we will fight under the new banner. When I realised that there was no effort being made to give us reservations, I decided to quit the NDA. We were fed up of running after every party for our rights. After this new party, our people will now raise the issue in Parliament. We can’t be ignored as we make up 40.79% of the electorate.

The community is scattered and socially backward, some write Mallah, while some write Nishad. They are known by 44 names, but with this party, we will come under one umbrella.

How did you get the title of ‘Son of Mallah?

I don’t look like Shah Rukh Khan, but my people support me because I can fight for their rights and demand reservations. I was in Mumbai working on the sets of Devdas as supervisor. When Raj Thackarey started his campaign against the North Indians, I returned to my village to celebrate chhatt puja.

I connected with my village and realised that a lot of work needs to be done to uplift my people. In 2014, I held my first sammelan of fishermen and it was widely attended. I spoke for them and the first title they gave me was ‘Gandhi Andhi’. I was 32 then. I said I am no Gandhi but a son of Mallahs. The new generation of Mallahs feels ashamed to reveal their caste. I want to instil pride in them.

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