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BIHAR POLLS: GAME OF GROWING RIFTS By Arun Srivastava Never before in the electoral history of India has any state assembly attracted such a wide attention like election to the Bihar assembly this year. While even the international scholars nurse the view that this election will change the dynamics and dimension of the Indian politics, it is also claimed that it is for the first time that caste is being used in the most ruthless manner by the contending alliances; Narendra Modi led NDA and Nitish Kumar led Grand Secular Alliance. Little doubt the verdict of the election would have wider ramification on the Indian politics and polity. While it would determine the future of the secular forces it would decide the future of the prime minister, whether he would dictate or listen to diktats. What has been really surprising is the political analysts have not been able to correctly comprehend the nature of the caste assertion; is it of inclusive character or simply aimed at securing a win? Opinion polls utterly lack political insight and depth. They simply look like commissioned programmes. Let us look at the dimension and dynamics of the caste politics in Bihar. Caste has always been used by the upper caste rich people and feudal lords of Bihar to protect and promote their class interest. And this time it is no exception. Senior leaders and teams of experts have been busy evolving strategies to identify and connect with the castes and strengthen the base of the caste consolidation. Apparently the exercise is an attempt to broad base the caste support base for the alliances, but in reality it is an effort to promote the class hegemony. They are working on the thesis of caste collaboration to achieve the goal of class collaboration. Apparently the nature of the campaigning and emphasis of the leaders on caste narratives reinforces the perception that the caste has become the decisive factor in the Bihar assembly elections. But this would be the simplistic evaluation and narrative. After their success at the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership has been desperately striving to maintain the primacy of the caste collaboration as it suits their class as well as ideological interest. Behind the façade of caste politics it is the class compulsion that defines the dynamics and dimension of the political development. Though the BJP leaders including Modi accuses Nitish of breaking the alliance only for satisfying of his ego, the fact remains it was emerging nature and content of the class collaboration in Bihar that forced the split in the ruling NDA. After Nitish parted company with the BJP in 2013 the Bhumihars and the Rajputs became angry with him as they were haunted with the specter of losing power and control on the state machinery. Needless to say any attempt to put in the frame of ideology or politics was simply a façade. The upper caste was scared of the scenario where they would have to play subservient to the backwards. The backdrop for this shift in the tactics could be traced out in the incidents that took place after the murder of the chief of dreaded Ranavir Sena, Barmeshwar Singh in June 2012. It ought to be not forgotten that Nitish Kumar had floated his Samata Party in 1995 with the upper caste Bhumihar, the landed gentry, and Kurmi-Koeri as its support base They had come together under the leadership of Nitish to fight the backward caste assertion under Lalu Yadav. The Bhumihars were displaced from their base during the RJD rule of Lalu Yadav and had to face ignominy. After Lalu’s ascendance to power in 1990 they had completely lost their socio-economic importance. Most of the Bhumihar landlord fled the villages. A number of them sold out their lands and settled in cities. Some of them even migrated to Delhi. Still some court cases are dragging on. In rural belt of Patna their lands were also seized by the militant and dalits and harijans. In urban areas too they had to face the challenges of the resurgent backwards. In seventies and eighties, Bihar had witnessed number of massacres and in almost all the incidents Bhumihars were identified as the perpetrators. Though a number of private armies of the landlords were formed the Ranavir Sena of Bhumihar was the most dreaded. In police records Barmeshwar Singh also known as Mukhiya commanded the Sena. After he was killed in the night of June 1, 2012, the present Union Minister, Giriraj Singh, then a ministerial colleague of Nitish had described him as modern day Mahatma Gandhi. Singh, was known as the Butcher of Bihar for his involvement in killing of over 200 Dalits. Following his murder violence had erupted in several parts of Bihar. His supporters had the audacity to heckle and insult Bihar's police chief DGP Abhay Anand, when he visited Mukhiya’s place in Arrah. Eventually Nitish had to promise to have the incident investigated. Mukhiya who was earlier facing life imprisonment in various carnage cases, was acquitted and released from jail in April 2012.  Police did not produce the evidences and materials against him before the court. The 2015 assembly election is in fact the battle for survival for the upper caste landed gentry of Bihar. Nitish joining hand with Lalu Yadav has simply panicked them. They are aware that if they fail to grab the power, they will be finished. The formation of grand alliance has simply revived the nightmares. The upper caste people do not intend to provide a class colour to their fight against Nitish-Lalu as they apprehend that this would alienate the OBC people who have joined the elite club of upper caste landlords after eighties, especially post-reforms period. It is a class initiative camouflaged as the caste assertion and consolidation. The backward caste politics has undergone a significant transformation in Bihar during the era of globalization and reforms. It is also a fact that the non-Yadavs backward caste segment is not too willing to be a simple ally of the OBC. In fact it is seeking an autonomous space within OBC politics. Nitish allying with the BJP to take on Lalu was also aimed at achieving this goal. But the assertive upper caste turned them skeptical. Undeniably the OBC is no longer a uniform bloc. The gains of the reforms have caused fragmentation in the backward caste politics with members of the block seeking more affirmative action. They are not averse to aligning with the BJP but are scared of the feudal and upper caste hegemony. Modi and BJP’s  constant rhetoric of jungle raj is nothing but a calculated attempt to persuade the rich and prosperous people to distance from the grand alliance. The section of the OBC population which has benefitted from globalization and reforms is no more willing to identify themselves with the Mandal politics and aspirations. But their percentage is not significant. Still a vast population of the backward castes continues to linger under the shadows of the semi-feudal production relation. Nevertheless the beneficiaries from the backward castes prefer to align with the upper caste people.  In the present backdrop while Muslims and most of the Yadavs and Kurmis will remain with the “mahagathbandhan” (grand alliance) of JD-U, RJD and Congress the upper castes -- Bhumihars, Kayasth, Rajputs and Brahmins -- will constitute the core of the NDA support. Kurmis and Yadavs have often been pitted against each other as they have common interest. Both are agriculture-based communities. Economically they are the most powerful class. They control of the economy of the state. Incidentally Mulayam Singh Yadav walking out of the grand alliance owes to the clash of interest of both the castes. Yadavs’ in UP cannot tolerate Kurmis. There Kurmis are with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Apna Dal. Their coming together in Bihar would have sent a wrong message to the Yadavs which was why Mulayam left the alliance. While the BJP has been assiduously pursuing the caste line Nitish opened a new front by describing Narendra Modi as Bahari. This is a tactical move to raise the issue of Bihari sub-nationality to counter the BJP caste consolidation. Nitish has made the electorate to chose between Bihari and “bahari” (outsider). Nitish said: “Bihar will progress on its own efforts. What will these outsiders do? I want to ask you a question, who will take Bihar forward, Bihari or bahari? If a Bihari is to take Bihar forward, then a real Bihari is here before you. We don’t need any of these ahari-bahari. Say goodbye to all these outsiders.” No doubt the NDA is striving hard to get the dalits and EBC on its bandwagon, it has also been showcasing Jitan Ram Manjhi, but then ground level contradictions between the upper castes and these people is deterrent. Notwithstanding a major section of the mahadalits and dalits are angry with Nitish for ill treating Manjhi it is doubtful how far they would rally behind the BJP. They are yet to forget the killings of their kins at the hands of the mercenaries of the upper caste landlords. (IPA Service)  

NEW DELHI: The telecom department (DoT) is likely to approach the Supreme Court (SC) the day the ongoing mega spectrum auctions end, seeking an early resolution to cases filed by some mobile phone operators challenging certain clauses of the sale rules, a senior government official said.


Last month, the apex court had allowed DoT to conduct the auctions from March 4, but asked it to withhold the results until the court decides on the various cases filed by the operators. While the court has scheduled the next hearing for March 26, many expect the sale to get over well before that day, raising uncertainty over the declaration of results.


“To comply with the current order of the Supreme Court, we might not even disclose the final result of the auctions until the issue is resolved,” said the official, requesting not to be named. The official explained that the department may discontinue with its ongoing practice of disclosing the circle-wise results and even the total amount the government might have earned, once auctions end, unless the sale continues well past March 26. “The final decision hasn’t been taken as yet,” he said.


Although the official said it is hard to predict when the auctions will end, analysts said the slowing intensity in bidding indicates that the sale is winding down. Over the past 13 days, telecom operators have bid over Rs 1.08 lakh crore for buying airwaves in the 2G bands of 900 MHz band, 1,800 MHz and 800 MHz, and the 3G band of 2100 MHz. This is the highest grosser so far, ahead of the record Rs 1.06 lakh crore earned by the government in 2010 auctions of 3G and 4G bandwidth.


Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications have contested various provisions in the Notice Inviting Applications, or the auction rule book, in several high courts. The Supreme Court transferred all the cases to itself, after the telecom department sought their early quashing.


Bharti Airtel, along with Reliance Communications, had won a case in the Tripura High court pertaining to the block size of spectrum being sold, but that was challenged by DoT in the Supreme Court, which subsequently stayed the order.


Independently, Airtel challenged the spectrum cap provision in the NIA which restricts it from buying any new airwaves in Karnataka, Mumbai and Delhi circles while Reliance Communications sought an increase in the supply of ‘fall back’ airwaves in the 1800 MHz band.


Idea Cellular had contested the provision, which allowed an existing player in the 900 MHz band to bid for incremental quantity of 0.6 MHz of spectrum while a company like Idea, all of whose airwaves in the 900 MHz spectrum in the UP circle are being put up for auction, will have to bid for a block of 5 MHz. This, Idea argued, would allow an existing player to keep increasing the price of the airwaves, thus making it more difficult for the AV Birla Group company to win back spectrum.

(Source: The Economic Times, March 19, 2015)



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