Bihar alliances use caste as prime card

NDA, ‘grand alliance’ play by such a calculation to shore up support.

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:33 pm IST

Published - September 24, 2015 11:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

As the National Democratic Alliance and the “grand alliance” have declared their lists of candidates for the Bihar Assembly elections, what has become crystal clear is that for all their talk of development, political parties use caste calculations as the dominant strategy for winning the battle of the ballot.

What is interesting, however, is that the grand alliance of the Janata Dal (U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, by allotting 97 seats to Lalu Prasad’s Muslim-Yadav combination is trying hard to shore up their support base.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s own Kurmi community has been allotted 16 seats. The Extremely Backward Classes, whose support Mr. Kumar had garnered in the previous elections, have been given 40 seats.

More interesting is the NDA’s case. While the BJP has given 65 seats to the upper castes (30 to Rajputs, 19 to Bhumihars, 13 to Brahmins and three to Kayasthas) the party, by generously allotting seats to allies, has tried to build a rainbow coalition. Not only has it given 16 seats to Yadavs from its own kitty of 160 seats, its allies, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), led by former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, the Lok Jan Shakti Party, led by Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan; and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, led by Minister of State for Human Resource Development Upendra Kushwaha; have also given the lion’s share of the ticket to backward communities.

‘More representative’

This clearly demonstrates that while the rhetoric may be about development, the strategy is about caste and identity politics. BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, however, disputes this. “While you can say that about the ‘grand alliance’ list, it is not the case with the NDA; we have given representation to 62 per cent of the population of the State, while they have restricted themselves to 32 per cent,” he told The Hindu .

Former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Modi said last week that the NDA had a “Mandal II” kind of coalition, breaking the BJP’s traditional upper caste mould.

The party has been conservative while distributing the ticket within, but adventurous in seeking allies who may bring in other social groups. In all this, development has been drowned out by the chorus of caste.

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