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How parties in Bihar are working on caste arithmetic to win polls

April 16, 2014 14:33 IST

How parties in Bihar are working on caste arithmetic to win polls

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M I Khan/Rediff.com

Issues and personality may not play as big a part as the caste of the candidate in Bihar’s 7 parliamentary constituencies that go to the polls on Thursday.

The Lok Sabha polls will also test BJP’s ‘Narendra Modi's wave’, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's development card and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad's social justice election plank.

In Bihar, politics revolves around jati (caste), which is the primary identity before religion, rights, empowerment, share in power and supremacy over each other. 

About 1.22 crore people are eligible to vote in the second phase of polling in the state to decide the fate of 117 candidates in Buxar, Ara, Nalanda, Jehanabad, Munger, Patliputra and Patna Sahib. They are poised for a triangular contest, unlike the last polls.

Prominent in the fray is actor turned politicians Satrughan Sinha, popularly known as Bihari babu, Misa Bharti, daughter of Lalu Prasad, real estate baron Anil Kumar Sharma, chairman and managing director of the Amrapali Group of companies, former Bihar police chief Asish Ranjan Sinha, former minister Ashwani Kumar Choubey, a vocal supporter of Modi, who had publicly disclosed his personal equation with him, and Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh, a close friend of Nitish Kumar.

"It is caste arithmetic that will decide the outcome of polls in Bihar,” said Satyanarain Madan, a political watcher.

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Image: People help 80-year old Jashiya Devi to get to a polling station in Jehanabad in the eastern Indian state of Bihar
Photographs: Krishna Murari Kishan/Reuters

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BJP's Satrughan Sinha heavily banking on his castemen -- Kayasth

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M I Khan/Rediff.com

The BJP is confidant of the overwhelming support of upper castes, particularly Bhumihars, who are known to be influential in politics. The saffron party is also hopeful of getting the support of the backward castes, extreme backward castes, Dalit and Mahadalits, thanks to its alliance with Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party. LFJ chief Ram Vilas Paswan is a respected Dalit leader like RLSP’s Upendra Kushwaha, a backward Koeri caste leader.

BJP leaders admit they are sure of Paswan’s and Kushwaha’s capability to transfer vote of there castemen -- Dusadh, Dalit and Koeri in favour of the party’s candidates in the fray.

BJP has fielded most of the candidates taking caste equations into consideration. In Buxar, Ara, Jehanabad,Patna Sahib and Patliputra, BJP is banking heavily extremely on backward castes and Mahadalits.

BJP candidate from Buxar, Ashwani Kumar Choubey, a Brahmin, is banking on the nearly 40 per cent upper caste, mainly Brahmin, voters. Another BJP candidate R K Singh, a retired IAS and former Union home secretary, from Ara seat is hoping to get a majority of his castemen’s (Rajput) votes.

Similarly, BJP candidate and sitting MP from Patna Sahib, Satrughan Sinha is heavily banking on his castemen -- Kayasth.

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Image: BJP candidate and sitting MP from Patna Sahib, Satrughan Sinha


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RJD's Misa Bharti is fighting with two other Yadav candidates

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M I Khan

Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress candidates are depending heavily on the overwhelming support of the traditional Yadav caste support base, a section of extreme backward castes, Mahadalits, Rajputs and Muslims.

In Patliputra, Lalu's elder daughter Misa Bharti is fighting a tough battle with two other Yadav candidates -- BJP's Ram Kirpal Yadav and Janata Dal-United candidate and sitting MP Ranjan Prasad Yadav. “The fight in Patliputra is among 3 formidable Yadav candidates and their votes will be divided. Misa is eying the support of other backward castes and Muslims. The JD-U is sure of getting the Kurmi, EBCs, Mahadalits and Muslims,” said Ranjiv, a political activist said.

Lalu has vigorously campaigned in Patliputra for his daughter. He addressed more than a dozen public meetings.

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Image: RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav


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Nitish Kumar is depending on voters of the Kurmi caste

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M I Khan/Rediff.com

For Nitish Kumar, Nalanda -- his home district -- is a test to prove his sway over his castemen. JD-U candidate and sitting MP Kushalendra Kumar is depending on his castemen Kurmi, Mahadalits and Muslims.

In Ara, which is in Bhojpur district, a left stronghold for decades -- the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) has over 1 lakh cadre base among backward castes, Mahadalits.

Though campaigning ended peacefully with no major incidents of violence reported except that an AAP candidate attacked and injured in Nalanda, ensuring safe polling will be a challenge for the Election Commission as well as the state government.

Adequate security arrangements have been made for the polls. About 42,600 security personnel, including 152 companies of central para military forces, 74 companies of Bihar Military Police and 20,000 home guards would be deployed, chief secretary A K Sinha said.


Image: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar listens to public grievances at the Janata Darbar in Patna
Photographs: Archana Masih/Rediff.com

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