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Why upper castes are angry with BJP and Nitish

October 18, 2018 08:59 IST

'We have taken note of this anger. We should not take upper caste votes for granted believing that they will not vote for any other party as there is no option,' a senior BJP leader said. 

M I Khan reports from Patna. 

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with priests from the Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan. Photograph: Kind courtesy @narendramodi/Twitter

Bihar has been witnessing something unusual in the last few days.

On October 11, a student hurled a slipper at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at a function to protest against reservations.

 

Before that, some upper caste youths showed black flags to Union ministers -- Ashwani Choubey, Smriti Irani, Ram Kirpal Yadav -- and Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi for neglecting their interests and demanded reservation for the poor among them.

In the caste-ridden Bihar politics, these developments are a reflection of the growing disillusionment the upper caste have for the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.

Among the upper castes, it is particularly the youths and students who are angry.

And, they are not hiding their unhappiness, and are openly protesting against the BJP and Kumar.

Till recently, the upper castes were known as the BJP’s traditional supporters and overwhelmingly voted for it in elections since the '90s.

They were also comfortable with Nitish Kumar after he dumped Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal last year.

But today, the upper caste youths have been openly justifying the act of Chandan Singh, who hurled the footwear at Nitish Kumar.

“He had rightly protested against reservations. We had voted the BJP to power in 2014 at the Centre, but it neglected us,” Sushmit Kumar, an agitated youth, told Rediff.com.

Echoing Sushmit’s view, Ratnesh Sharma said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to treat Dalits as special and "ignoring us" is wrong.

Sushmit and Ratnesh’s disappointment was evident across Bihar recently when on September 6, some organisation had called a one-day bandh to protest against the amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The amendment bill passed by Parliament had overturned the Supreme Court order which barred arrests without a preliminary inquiry.

“Chandan Singh symbolised the growing anger of upper caste students against the discriminatory reservation policy that badly hit us. Chandan has rightly termed the Nitish Kumar-led government as anti-savarna (forward caste),” Sushmit said.

Chandan, resident of a village in Bihar’s Aurangabad district, vowed to continue his protest against reservations after he was released by the police.

Interestingly, he was detained and not arrested in order to not to provide another issue to several upper caste groups, particularly the Sawarna Sena which has been protesting in Bihar for the past two months.

If this wasn’t enough, two upper caste leaders of the BJP have been openly supporting the demands of the community.

Senior BJP leader and former Union minister C P Thakur had staged a dharna against his own state government demanding the release of the upper caste men arrested during the bandh while BJP MLC Sachidanand Rai has publicly said that the upper castes are angry and the government should understand why they are unhappy.

Both BJP and Nitish Kumar’s JD-U are worried over the anger among its traditional support base that constitutes nearly 12 to 14 per cent of the total population in Bihar.

A senior BJP leader admitted that the anger among upper castes against the party was evident during the bandh sponsored by upper castes groups in September.

"We have taken note of this anger. We should not take upper caste votes for granted believing that they will not vote for any other party as there is no option,” he said.

Taking advantage of the growing anger against the BJP, the Congress is not only supporting reservations for the poor among the upper castes but has made a Brahmin its state unit president and set up a campaign committee headed by a Bhumihar to send a strong political massage ahead of the 2019 polls.

M I Khan in Patna