It is undeniable that Bihar is India’s most economically backward state. The primary reason for pushing Bihar into the quagmire of extreme poverty and poor socio-economic development squarely lies on the upper castes of the state, who treated the state as their vassalage. The principal factor which motivated the academics and intellectuals to launch a sustained struggle for creation of Bihar in 1912 was to establish the Bihari identity. But unfortunately this emergence of a new force and creation of new state was exploited by the landed gentry to serve their narrow class interest.
Soon, precisely in 1930, the three intermediate castes Yadavs, Koiris and Kurmis came together to form Triveni Sangh a caste coalition and political party established in Shahabad District of Bihar in pre-independence India to voice the political solidarity of “middle peasant castes” as well as to carve a space in democratic politics for the lower castes. The leaders associated with the formation of this front were Yadunandan Prasad Mehta, Shivpujan Singh and Jagdev Singh Yadav. They were the official mouthpiece of Triveni Sangh.
The formation of Triveni Sangh was the major step for assertion of the backward castes. Concept for the empowerment of the poor backward castes made the beginning from that time. But Sangh lost momentum as almost all its leaders were associated with the Congress. It is worth mentioning that the upper caste landed gentry was also with the Congress and most of the upper caste leaders were the public face of the party. Obviously the movement could not be given a concrete character and even it became a major force, it frittered away.
In nineteen sixties with Ram Manohar Lohia leading the intermediate castes and formation of the united front governments across the country, especially in the north India, once against witnessed the emergence of the backward caste politics. But it was not a unified movement. A fractured OBC was more concerned with recognizing the separate identity of the sub castes. This division witnessed huge caste war in the state.
After the Kamandal and Mandal clash, the state once again witnessed the arrival of the OBC politics. Ram Bilas Paswan and Lalu Yadav were the main public face of the Mandal movement and politics. Ironically none of the both leaders could make all the OB castes join hands fight unitedly. Lalu though talked of backward politics, his primary focus was on Yadavs and Muslims. An insight into the political process would make it clear that his effort was more electoral oriented than fight for their emancipation or development of state to empower the backward castes.
Being set in Gangetic trough, Bihar has not been a fit case for industrial development, but other avocations could have been promoted. But neither Paswan nor Lalu had a look at this. At that time, in late seventies and early eighties, some Congress leaders strived for setting up chain of educational institutions, but even before this could emerge as a viable empowerment mechanism, they became the victims of the caste and class war.
The worst affected section of the society was the OBC. Amongst the Yadavs only its creamy section was benefitted. The lower class of the Yadavs were in true sense denied of the government schemes. They continued to lurch. No doubt emergence of Paswan and Lalu had worked as an inspiring agenda. But it did not get materialised in financial gains or empowerment of these classes, even the Dalits to which Paswan belonged. Koiris and Kumis were enterprising section, obviously they could manage to get some government and financial help. Nevertheless it was during the rule of Nitish Kumar these three castes emerged as the potential power block.
During these years Nitish emerged as the unassailable backward leader. Of course the crown of the backward leader is reserved for Lalu Yadav, the reality is Lalu is identified as the leader of rich and affluent Yadavs and Muslims, but Nitish is perceived as the new leader of Triveni Sangh, constituting Kori, Kurmi and Yadavs. Kurmis have population of 3 %. Kushwaha (koiris) have 6 % and Yadavs 13 per cent Combined together they constitute around 22 per cent of the population.
Nitish is also identified as the leader of the mahadalits and extreme backward castes. He at one stage had brought other backward caste and dalit leaders with him; like Jitan Ram Manjhi (Hindustani Awam Morcha) and Upendra Kushwaha (Rashtriya Lok Samta Party) and Mukesh Sahani of Nishad Party. But the internecine caste feud and contradictions made them part company with Nitish.
Narendra Modi’s close lieutenant Amit Shah, the BJP’s Chanakya, has managed to bring them into NDA fold to counter Nitish Kumar’s influential caste coalition within the opposition INDIA alliance in Bihar but it has not succeeded in making serious impact on the political scene. And this has been reason that Shah has turned belligerent. The reluctance of expanding the reservation ambit by Modi has been a deterrent in the path of the BJP. Sahani recently said; “Those who accept our demand will get our vote. Why can’t the BJP accept the demand if they want to uplift the fisherfolk community?” Acceding to Sahani’s demand would open the Pandora’s box. They are not in the position to accept the demand of the EBCs and Mahadalits, on whom it has been focusing to counter Nitish’s alliance. This has been alienating these forces away from BJP.
The mahagathbandhan government of Jharkhand has been more assertive in countering the machinations of the BJP and Modi government. On September 14, last year it granted 77 per cent reservation in state government jobs for the members of the SC, ST, backward classes, OBC and economically weaker sections, an official said. The state cabinet hiked the OBC reservation to 27% from the present 14%.
This move of Hemant government has simply strengthened the position of the government and also at the same time hyped the aspiration of the Dalits, OBC and other deprived classes. It also proposed to have job quotas for SC, ST and others. In the proposed job reservation policy, local people of the SC community will have a quota of 12%, ST 28%, extremely Backward Class 15%, OBC 12%, and economically weaker section barring those from other reserved categories 10%. Shockingly the Governor has returned the bill, the INDIA block sources maintain that this will feature as the main election agenda.
Undeniably the main issues in India are concentration of wealth, huge inequality in wealth, massive unemployment, huge unfairness towards the lower caste, OBCs, and tribal communities, and price rise. The INDIA block is determined to raise these issues just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in a big way. Modi has put himself on defensive by not announcing reservation for OBC women in the women’s bill.
The sources close to Nitish point out that the RSS and BJP would ignite the communal passion just ahead of the election. They pointed out that Bidhuri using derogatory language against BSP’s Danish and Modi’s speech in Madhya Pradesh are part of the strategy. The RSS has also been emphasising on raising the communal passion. Obviously these developments point out that they would not like to talk of reservation for OBC or providing them economic benefits. In this backdrop the INDIA block would raise these issues more vigorously. (IPA Service)