Photo by ALEJANDRO PAGNI / AFP
Photo by ALEJANDRO PAGNI / AFP

Bihar is one of the most complicated states in the country, where caste is presumed to define the character of the politics. But in reality that is not the case. It is class that dictates State politics. The Lok Sabha elections for 2019 in Bihar promise to be a battle between the backward castes, dalits and upper castes for the control of the state’s economy. There is a feeling among all the caste groups, irrespective of their class character and economic status that caste-based coalition governments have not succeeded in solving their issues.

The backward castes and dalits with leaders like Nitish Kumar, Sushil Modi and Ram Vilas Paswan believe that all the benefits have been conned by the upper caste people, although a general impression has been created that all the benefits are being given to the backwards and dalits. BJP has never been the political party of Bihar. Even today it does not reflect the aspiration of the State’s people. It is an umbrella organisation of the upper caste people, although they do not share a common perception about the party. Of late, the upper caste people have been weighing the option of deserting BJP and JD(U) and to switch their loyalty to Congress.

This may witness the revival of Congress, but BJP is out to foil this move at any cost. The upper castes deserted the Congress and switched over to BJP after the Congress leadership aligned with the backward castes and dalits for its survival.
Their desertion of Congress could primarily be traced to the massacres that took place in the seventies and eighties. The Congress leadership was vertically split on caste lines. Bhumihars, Rajputs and Brahmins were pitted against the Congress leaders of backward community.

In those days, Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav was the prominent face of Congress. But he was embroiled in a caste war and was accused of supporting Yadav mercenaries against the upper castes. This was the beginning of the decline of Congress. The feudal elements that constituted the core of the Congress were aggrieved at the passive attitude of the party. The upper caste population harboured the feeling that their interests were not safe in the hands of the leadership.

It was not the ideological orientation or their turning to Hinduism that they became members of the saffron brigade. Instead it was the sense of security that made them don saffron. In recent months, the upper caste electorates have got alienated from Nitish and his government and come to strongly believe that he is not for them. All the close associates of Nitish belong to the backward castes. The only backward caste BJP leader to stay with Nitish was Sushil Mody.

In fact, he is the leader who had worked out the plan 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 has been relying on his old friend Lalan Singh but the Bhumihars do not trust him. Nitish’s game plan to get more seats was to please the upper caste voters.

But the fact is that the Bhumihars feel more at ease with the BJP. Even Rajputs are not ready to support Nitish. They foresee a Rajput-led BJP government. Though Nitish claims to have managed to extract a 50:50 seat-sharing deal from Amit Shah, the BJP is not willing to antagonise its upper caste support base, but it is still not willing to disclose its cards. Meanwhile, in a significant development the RJD leadership has cautioned Congress against any BJP plot to drive a wedge between them.

Tejashvi believes that a combination of Congress and RJD would certainly upset the calculations of the BJP. To make the scenario 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. The Congress cold shouldering Nitish has also received appreciation from the upper caste people.

Arun Srivastava is a freelance journalist.Views are personal.

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