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The Story of Two Cycles: One For and the Other Against Nitish

Samajwadi Party’s symbol ‘cycle’ had emerged as a stumbling block for the Grand Alliance in the initial days.

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Politics
3 min read
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Snapshot

Riding High on Bicycle

  • Samajwadi Party’s symbol ‘cycle’ had emerged as a stumbling block for the Grand Alliance in initial days
  • Focus shifts to the other ‘cycle’ as Nitish highlights his flagship cycle scheme for girl students
  • Senior government official tells The Quint, enrollment for the scheme increases by seven times in last nine years
  • BJP also tries to build on the cycle scheme, promises to give scooty if elected to power
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More than a month back, or to be more precise, on the eve of Bihar polls, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who, till July, had favoured Nitish Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate of the secular alliance, suddenly walked out even before his embryonic formation could take a formal shape.

In the initial days of merger talks earlier this year, his party’s symbol ‘cycle’ remained a stumbling block in the coming together of Janata Parivar leaders. Bihar’s leaders favoured ‘lantern’ (RJD symbol) and ‘arrow’ (JD-U symbol) as it could have helped them connect with people better compared to a new symbol ‘cycle’ which was popular in UP but not in Bihar.

Good Riddance of SP’s Cycle

The JD (U) leaders now concede that an unpredictable Mulayam’s decision to walk out (on his cycle) was, in a way, a good riddance. Though the Samajwadi Party could marginally affect the grand alliance nominees in certain pockets like Sasaram and Chenari (in Rohtas) and Bhabhua and Chainpur (in Kaimur), all bordering Uttar Pradesh.

But with one cycle gone astray, the other cycle has helped Nitish Kumar reap a rich political harvest. His pet project Mukhyamantri Cycle Yojna (Chief Minister’s cycle scheme), launched in 2006 for girls studying in government schools is, as per reports pouring in from various quarters, yielding Nitish rich political dividends.

Samajwadi Party’s symbol ‘cycle’ had emerged as a stumbling block for the Grand Alliance in the initial days.
Samajwadi Party’s election logo (Photo: www.samajwadiparty.in)
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Nitish’s Cycle Scheme: A Big Hit

Under the programme, launched nine years back, girls studying in Class IX were given Rs 2000 as cash to purchase cycle. As this programme helped increase the enrolment of girl students, the amount was increased to Rs 2500. When at a public meeting, some boys complained to the Chief Minister about gender discrimination, Nitish widened the scheme so as to include even boys under the same cycle project.

“The number of girls enrolled in Class IXth till 2006 was around 1.5 lakh. After the launch of cycle yojana, the girls enrolment has now increased to around 8.25 lakh, more than seven times in the last nine years,” said a senior government official.

Samajwadi Party’s symbol ‘cycle’ had emerged as a stumbling block for the Grand Alliance in the initial days.
‘Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna’ initiated by Nitish Kumar was launched in 2006 for girls studying in government schools. (Photo: Nitish Kumar’s blog)
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BJP’s Promise of Scooty

Nitish takes pride in reminding his voters at all his rallies how the cycle yojana has motivated girls for higher studies. Not only this, the school uniform, scholarship scheme and Rs 10,000 (as cash incentive) to those, girls who pass their matriculation in first division too, has helped Nitish gain sympathy and votes (of their parents).

Little wonder, in every rally he reminds the electorate that BJP, as a copycat, has promised to provide scooty to girls. “I distributed more than eight lakh cycles to girl students. Now the BJP leaders have promised scooty to you. This will be another jumla (fake promise), as girls in the age group of 14 to 17 are not entitled to driving licence. Besides, who will pay for the petrol?” he counter-questions, which even his rivals find difficult to answer.

(The writer is a Bihar-based journalist)

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