Parties in Bihar woo upper caste voters amid furore over caste-based census

Politics on the basis of caste is not a new phenomenon in Bihar whether it is the ruling or the opposition parties which are speaking in one voice about implementing the caste-based census in the state. However, all parties in Bihar do not want to let go any opportunity to consolidate the ‘forward caste’ votes as well.

If we look at all major parties in Bihar, there is an increase in the number of forward caste leaders inducted in every party. The trend of setting the right political and caste equations is not new to Bihar and has been followed in the past as well. If one looks closely, many major parties may be vocal about the caste census but the leaders from the forward castes control each party’s topmost posts.

Talking about the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), even though the party leadership is in the hands of Lalu Prasad as the party’s National President but the party’s state leadership is led by Jagdanand Singh, who belongs to the Rajput community. Though, the traditional vote bank of the RJD is considered to be of Yadavs and Muslims and it has long been associated with the politics of social justice.

Looking at the ruling Janata Dal (United) in Bihar, the seniormost party leader and the current Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is considered to be an astute politician and an expert at ‘social engineering’ of getting caste equations right before elections.

The ‘Luv-Kush’ equation is a political term used in the context of the politics of Bihar, to denote the alliance of the agricultural Kurmi and the Koeri caste, which together constitute nearly 15 per cent of the state’s population.

The alliance of these two caste groups has remained the traditional support base of Nitish Kumar along with a strong support base within the Extremely Backward Castes (EBC).

The JD(U) has recently tried to woo the forward caste voters by appointing Munger MP Lalan Singh as the party’s new President.

The Congress is considered a party solely of forward caste voters in Bihar since its inception. Initially, the upper caste voters had remained loyal to the Congress but later, however, these voters drifted away from the party. Despite this, Madan Mohan Jha from the Brahmin community has remained the Congress state president.

The Congress wants to send a clear message to the forward caste voters that they have always been an important voter base for the party and are still crucial to the party’s consolidation.

The BJP is recognized as a party whose politics is identified with support base among the forward castes. Lok Sabha MP Sanjay Jaiswal is the BJP state president, who is a Vaishya by caste. The BJP, however, has opposed a caste-based census in Bihar.

Ajay Kumar, a well-known journalist from Bihar, says that there is no doubt that politics in Bihar is based on caste. After the resolution of many controversial political issues such as Ram Mandir, abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, Triple Talaq law etc parties with a socialist ideology are no longer left with burning issues.

He said the identity of the BJP has been synonymous with a party working for the interests of forward castes. In such a situation, other parties are trying to send the message that people from the forward castes are also significant for them by giving plum posts to leaders from the forward castes.