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Caste: The Only Issue of Bihar

Bihar: a state where politics is not just a topic of discussion for people but a way of life.

Tejashwi Yadav passionately campaigning in Bihar (Source: Deccan Herald)

“Rajneeti aur Bihar ka purana Sangam hai” was quoted by veteran leader Lalu Prasad Yadav when he was out in the world of politics. This quote fits in quite well and is coming out to be evident during this election. The Janata Dal (United) joining hands with the Bhartiya Janata Party on one hand, on the other side we have Rashtriya Janata Dal with its allies. Both parties are trying to put forward a tough fight for the “Mitti of Bihar”.

The election in Bihar is packaged with promises of employment, development, infrastructure, and so on. Deep down real politics is age-old. The politics of caste and vote bank of EBC. A glance at the ticket distribution of candidates from both parties makes it quite evident. The EBC community holds 25% of the vote share in the state. Nearly a quarter of candidates from both parties i.e. JDU and RJD belong to this community. RJD will contest on 144 seats out of which candidates on 58 seats belong to the Yadav community, 24 from EBC, 17 from Muslim, and rest go to the SC community. JD(U) is contesting on 115 seats with candidates 26 representing the EBC community, 15 Kushwaha, 12 SC and others go to the Rajput and some majority castes. BJP stands clear with its politics of upper caste and has fielded 21 candidates from the Rajput community.

The distribution of tickets between caste has been one of the prevalent reasons for an underdeveloped vote bank. A noting factor in this ticket distribution is the growing polarization of political parties towards Muslim candidates this election. BJP has fielded not a single Muslim candidate for this election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is campaigning with Nitish Kumar and making the crowd visualize “naya Bihar” with a tinge of the Galwan Valley clash and mind blowing move of abrogating article 370 and “restoring so-called peace” in the valley. The reason behind citing these examples and going away from the topic of infrastructural development is the bizarre failure of Nitish’s “Saat Nischay” scheme.

What is at stake in this election for BJP?

This mandate will prove whether the public is satisfied with the work they did during the pandemic. This election is also an image check for Modi as to if he can be used to further campaign in a state election or whether his figure is fading away. The power of Modi speaking Bihari in his campaigns is just another way of of his audience. While one cannot deny his oratory skills, his political affiliations this election seem to fade away with the crowd of RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav.

Another important factor of this election is Chirag Paswan, the son of Ram Vilas Paswan. His father has paved way for him this election. He might be figuring out how to capitalize sympathy votes after his father’s death, perhaps giving tough competition to his opponents. He is continuously hammering Nitish Kumar and at the same time praising Narendra Modi which makes a lot of political analysts say that he is eyeing Delhi and the state election is just a mere stepping stone for him in the long run and getting a seat in the cabinet. He is quite on track with his father Ram Vilas Paswan who always used to say, “see the bigger picture”.

In this election, one must also note the involvement of both the political leaders and the people of Bihar even during this tough time of COVID. While the game of slander, abuse and takedown between political parties continues, the democracy of our country is waking up from the remains of this election.

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