Extremely Backward Class votes may be deciding factor in Bihar polls: Neerja Chowdhury

New Delhi, Oct. 3 (ANI): The political mercury is shooting up in Bihar, as this the election season.

Political parties are busy branding themselves as saviors of the victimised class of the country’s third biggest state-Bihar-whose big rural population will play a major role in choosing the next government.

Bihar, which is set to undergo a five-phased election from October 12 to November 5, is witnessing lucrative offers being made by both the state ruling and opposition parties.

Ostensibly, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has done plenty of good work for the upliftment of Bihar and for eradicating what many have referred to as the “Jungle Raaj” of the previous regime in the state, which was headed by RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi.

But his decision to quit the NDA after a 17-year-long association and joining hands with tainted parties like the RJD and the Congress, has reportedly riled a majority of the people, including lower caste Hindus in the state.

“There are some who believe that Nitish Kumar would have done better to have gone on his own instead of tying up with Lalu with his “Jungle Raaj” image. But then, Lalu does account for 20 percent of the vote share, and most of the forward castes, who give this argument, have anyway made up their minds to vote for the BJP. Nitish’s slump to 16 percent of the vote in 2014, held its own message for him,” underscored renowned political analyst Neerja Chowdhury.

The RJD, which was on the verge of extinction after Lalu’s conviction, has given itself a boost by forming an alliance with JD-U. The JD(U)-RJD alliance reflects the nervousness of Nitish Kumar, believes Chowdhury, who further added that the alliance has given a new fillip to the RJD.

“It was Nitish Kumar’s mistake to join hands with Lalu Prasad ahead of the election,” said AAP MLA, Burari, Sanjeev Jha, who has also been working for his party’s Bihar unit.

Jha further underlined that his party supremo Arvind Kejriwal is supporting only Nitish Kumar, whose political image is clean unlike Lalu Prasad.

“Lalu Yadav has had to accept the leadership of Nitish Kumar as the CM candidate of the Mahagathbandhan, which he must have found difficult. But had he not done so, his party would have become vulnerable. In such a scenario, the Muslims were more likely to gravitate towards the Nitish-Congress combine with Nitish taking on Modi’s BJP. In that event, a chunk of Yadav might have also turned towards the BJP. Lalu could not risk this. For even at his lowest ebb in 2014, he had still retained almost 20% of the popular vote,” she said.

It is not a question of either development or caste politics. It is both in Bihar. Development has an appeal for the younger and aspirational group and caste still underpins electoral behaviour in Bihar, which is one of the most under developed and backward states of India.

The acute poverty in Bihar can be traced to the economic backwardness of both the agricultural and industrial sectors. There is limited occupational opportunity outside the agriculture sector in Bihar.

Bihar in 2015 is very different from the Bihar of the 90s, but given the past experiences of the Bihar elections, we need to understand that caste can’t be completely eliminated from development. Sadly, both caste and development will go hand in hand, 50:50,” said blogger-cum-political analyst Sadhavi Khosla.

Development should be the only agenda of political parties. If the Nitish-led JD(U) had not snapped its alliance with BJP, today Bihar would have been benefitted the most, as with the NDA at the Centre, Nitish would have gained from the alliance had the JD-U not snapped ties with NDA.

This time, the development agenda would also be a major factor in the state. Yet, the Bihar election and caste politics sound synonymous. “The SC/ST votes are in full support of NDA”.

Though the debut political entry of Asaduddin Owaisi in the Bihar polls would not bring about a certain change, somehow his party, the AIMIM, will effectively polaris Muslim votes that will finally help NDA,” said Chowdhury, who further added that the majority of Muslim votes (17 percent of total voters) will go with the grand alliance.

Nitish Kumar, as an alliance partner of the NDA, did tremendous work for the welfare of Extremely Backward Class (EBC).

Chowdhury said the EBC votes will decide who wins Bihar’s political battle.

“Fifty three percent of the EBC voted for BJP during the general election in 2014 in Bihar. And this time too, 32 percent of their votes will be the deciding factor in upcoming state polls,” she said.

“It should be very clear that the Yadav vote is not at all influenced by the grand alliance of the JD (U), RJD and the Congress. Only Lalu Prasad Yadav’s close family will vote for the RJD and the rest of Yadav voters are in full support of the NDA,” said Ram Kripal Yadav, once a close confidant of Lalu Prasad, and now a NDA union minister.

Rating Nitish Kumar’s government on a scale of 1 to 10, Chowdhury said, “Nitish Kumar has run a good government, though he had many more problems to contend with in the last two years, since his break with the BJP. I would give him 8 out of 10.”

Khosla has rated Kumar’s government as 6 out of 10 on overall governance and development, considering that Bihar was under the jungle raaj for 15 years of Lalu-Rabri rule.

“Nitish Kumar did a good work in Bihar till the time he had not snapped ties with the BJP. Ever since the BJP and the JD-U divorced each other, the development of Bihar has taken a back seat, as both parties and their leaders go into egocentric battles,” said Khosla.

It is a tough fight in Bihar, and its outcome will have implications for national politics, for Narendra Modi’s style of governance, for what shape the opposition unity takes and the functioning of Parliament. By Diwakar Sharma (ANI)

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