By Arun Srivastava
The Lok Sabha elections for 2019 in Bihar promise to be a significant political battle between the backward and upper castes. There is simmering discontent in all the caste groups, irrespective of their class character and economic profile that the coalition governments have failed to improve their conditions. While the backward castes and dalits with leaders like Nitish Kumar, Sushil Modi, Ram Vilas Paswan etc feel that all the benefits have been conned by the upper caste people, who, however, the opposite to be true.
After the upper caste people hit the streets in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and other states against state overtures to the backwards and Dalits, their counterparts in Bihar resorted to hunger strike. Veteran BJP leaders led by Rajya Sabha member Dr C P Thakur staged a hunger strike in Gaya. This district had witnessed many incidents of violence between the upper and lower caste people during the last three decades, which led to the formation of the private militia Ranbir Sena by the upper castes.
Of late the upper caste people have been considering deserting the BJP and JD(U) to switch over their loyalty, particularly to Congress, which was their original political forum. They deserted Congress and joined BJP after the Congress leadership went into the hands of the backward castes and Dalits. The upper caste population harboured the feeling that their interests were not safe in the hands of the present leadership. It was not the ideological orientation or their propensity to Hinduism that made them turn to the saffron brigade, but the need for a sense of security.
In recent months the upper caste electorates have got alienated from Nitish and his government as they believed that Nitish was not for them. All the close associates of Nitish belong to the backward castes. In fact, it was Sushil Modi, who had worked out the strategy to bring Nitish closer to the BJP with the help of Union minister Arun Jaitley and make him the chief minister though a number of upper caste BJP leaders were opposed to this move.
For some time Nitish has been trying to pamper and win over the upper caste people, especially the Bhumihars. To succeed in his mission he relied on his old friend Lalan Singh but the Bhumihars do not trust him. The primary mission of Nitish to extract more seats than he actually deserved was to please the upper caste voters. But the fact of the matter is the Bhumihars feel more at ease with the BJP. Even Rajputs are not ready to support Nitish. They foresee a Rajput-led BJP government.
It has been claimed that BJP and JD(U) have agreed to contest an equal number of seats. But BJP sources see problems as Amit Shah has promised ‘respectable’ number of seats to Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, although he said each party has agreed to take a cut in its share to accommodate JD(U) .
While on the day Amit Shah claimed there are no internal differences in the NDA over seat-sharing, RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha met RJD leader Tejashvi Yadav, creating a flutter in political circles. Kushwaha for long has been fighting against the political one-upmanship of Koiris, the caste to which Nitish belongs. If the NDA sources are to be believed, Kushwaha’s RLSP and Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP are growing restive as BJP is yet to announce the number of seats each party would contest.
Some RLSP leaders emphasise not to read between the lines and say their leader’s meeting with Tejashwi was just a coincidence. But they acknowledge that the ‘two to three’ seats that Amit Shah has indicated will not make a respectable number. But Tejashwi said that Kushwaha was always welcome to join the Grand Alliance. To make things worse for Nitish the state intelligence officials have fed the chief minister with the information that a section of the upper caste population is contemplating their allegiance to Congress. (IPA Service)