Revival or recantation
Earlier also, Bihar had twice set the agenda for national politics, first during the emergency (1975-77), then during the Mandal-<g data-gr-id="137">Kamandal</g> phase when Lal Krishna Advani was arrested in the middle of his controversial Rath Yatra in 1990. The Bihar poll outcomes would also reflect whether the socio-political and economic reverberations that stormed Modi as country’s prime minister a year back was a temporary phenomenon due to the mere anti-incumbency against the UPA government or was it reflecting the deeper mood impressed by Hindutva ideology.
Defeat in Delhi elections 2015 has proved that Modi’s charisma is not <g data-gr-id="144">invincible</g> but the city-state’s demography in the recent past has adhered more to class than cast and communal politics. It appears, Delhi’s voting behaviour, does reflect a Rip Van Winkle as it is disconnected from the larger political universe of India’s hinterlands despite being its national Capital. Yes, Bihar polls would also test the new kind of alliance of OBCs, who have once again come together after the historic 1977 and 1990 Assembly polls that has emerged with coming together of Nitish Kumar and Laloo Prasad Yadav. “The outcome probably would also mark the beginning or end of this kind of alliance,” said JNU professor Maninder Thakur, an expert on Bihar politics.
Trouble for BJP
On the other hand, Acche Din aka development, which people have realised are not going to come due to continued inflation, price rise, and no change in employment scenario. So, it is possible that <g data-gr-id="138">caste</g> will again assert itself as a powerful factor in Bihar polls. Muslims vote for security. Upper caste will remain with BJP in any din – <g data-gr-id="139">acche</g> or <g data-gr-id="140">burey</g>. The OBCs – Yadavs, Kurmis and Banias among others are aspirational <g data-gr-id="141">castes</g>. They will go for hardcore political bargain and calculations. Acche din campaigns require tremendous media blitz, which is absent this time. In any case Indian voters are intelligent enough to differentiate between media blitz and the real story.
“Defeat or victory will decide the future in Delhi. In case of defeat for BJP, the idea that Modi has come for 10 years would turn into a myth. If Bihar does not give BJP, even five years might be difficult for Modi. He will face tough time managing the rebellion in waiting. We saw Advani’s statement on emergency in the country. The aura of Modi will be shattered, and he will face attack from RSS and his internal rivals. Modi, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley have reportedly hijacked all the powers and rest are waiting for Bihar polls. But if Modi wins, there will be a final silence in the party for some time to come,” Thakur told Millennium Post.
Challenges before the Janata alliance
But, the OBC alliance too faces multiple challenges. As the political process moves on, many sub-castes are asserting within the dominant <g data-gr-id="160">castes,</g> and paving the way for new alliances. “It is a possibility that BJP may try to chip away many sub-castes of Yadavs and Kurmis. It has already <g data-gr-id="151">Kuswahas</g> on its side. BJP has announced that it will give <g data-gr-id="155">ticket</g> to a larger number of Yadavs than the alliance, which is possible. It is likely that if the Janata-Congress alliance wins it will lead to realignment of political forces at the national level and if it loses it will sign the death warrant of such alliances based on single caste and community lines. In future there will be new forms of alliances each one of them having multiple castes and communities,” he said. Commenting on the OBC alliance, Ram Vilas Paswan said: “Ye <g data-gr-id="152">jarjar</g> ka merger hai (This merger is of spent forces)”. The Laloo-Nitish alliance is a political compulsion of these parties and these two political personalities. “Since, they are losing control over their own people thus they are merging together to first give a solid options to the Muslims, which definitely they have given,” Thakur said.
But within their communities things are moving differently. Though, as is said, Laloo Prasad is considered as a Gandhi within his own community, his failure to transfer power to other Yadav leaders in his community, outside his family, is eroding his popularity everyday. Also, in the last 20 years, a plethora of powerful Yadav elites have been created to name a few – Ranjan Yadav, Pappu Yadav and Ram Kripal Yadav, who have questioned Laloo Yadav on transferring power only to his kith and kin. “On the one hand Laloo Yadav has failed to transfer power to his relatives within the RJD due to <g data-gr-id="146">incompetence</g> of his sons or daughters. BJP is sure to exploit this weakness,” Thakur pointed out. In the forthcoming <g data-gr-id="145">elections</g> <g data-gr-id="153">Yadavs</g> might resort to tactical voting like the Muslims, as they have now realised the fallacy of being only aligned with one political party (read RJD). They may even vote for the saffron alliance in case BJP gives ticket to a Yadav, and the Janata alliance to a
Nitish Kumar appears to have weakened his base in Bihar, as we saw in recent Lok Sabha polls. Kumar rose on the plank of development and created lot of aspirations. Unfortunately he had no other model except that of the World Bank’s documented in the form of a report in 2005. According to Thakur, this model had already been tested in other two states, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra <g data-gr-id="174">Pradesh,</g> and has failed drastically. The state remains poor in terms of capital formation and agricultural or industrial <g data-gr-id="132">growth</g> but land has become costlier and the World Bank loan taken by the state has been cornered by a small elite in the state. He appointed teachers in this informal system called as <g data-gr-id="127">shiksha</g> <g data-gr-id="128">mitra</g>, who proved to be a challenge for him as they are demanding regularisation.
Even if Nitish is taken as a prominent alliance leader, in the post-poll scenario Laloo Yadav might emerge as a more powerful leader. This fear has already initiated an internal tug of war between the two. It is said that within RJD the advocates having softer relation with BJP was gaining grounds. In the last 25 years in the Laloo-Nitish era, Yadav’s have experienced upward social mobility and a new Yadav middle class has emerged in Bihar who who is looking for more cosmopolitan role than merely being with the Yadav caste identity politics. “So the cast politics is no more simple in Bihar and not a linear equation any more. How things will transform in the next three months, a lot will depend upon that, but no-doubt the merger has given way to a very powerful political force in Bihar. Without the merger, Bihar would have been a cake walk for the BJP,” Thakur pointed out.
Difference with 1977, 1990 OBC alliance
But, there is a striking difference between the OBC alliance of 1990 and 2015. “Yadav-Kurmi alliance of 1990 was assertion, and the 2015 alliance is a compulsion. So, the new alliance is not spontaneously cohesive, it may even break on small pretexts. There are internal contradictions among OBCs, among Dalits, and even between Dalits and OBCs, among all class and caste groups. Jitan Ram Manjhi’s assertion is important in the sense that for the first time in the history of Bihar politics there is a debate about the phenomenon of autonomous Dalit politics in Bihar on the line of UP and Maharashtra. “The capacity of political parties to transfer vote to the other party is very low in Bihar, so it would be interesting to see the voting behavior of RJD, JDU and Congress voters in the polls,” Thakur pointed out.
Upper Caste and class in Bihar
Except the Bhumiars and some Rajputs, no other upper caste dreams for any political power in Bihar. It is already non-option for Brahmins and Kayasthas – probably the most educated caste in Bihar. Shatrughan Sinha (Kayastha) has already been sidelined along with Ashwini Chaubey (Brahmin).
So, the BJP can sacrifice some of the upper castes and field Yadavs, if it pays. There is backward assertion in BJP. CP Thakur (Bhumiar) and Sushil Modi (OBC) have become rivals for Chief Ministerial position. Nand Kishore Yadav (OBC) and Giriraj Singh (Bhumiar) are also important names. BJP may not announce the name of CM candidate as it did in Delhi. BJP and NDA appear to be a conundrum of conflicting OBC and upper caste ambitions. Recently we saw Koeri leader Upendra Kushwaha (Rastriya Lok Samata Party) leader staking claim to CMs post.
The emerging middle class is looking for its own position in politics. Laloo kind of phenomenon is not giving space to them. Bihar’s middle class, the non resident Biharis and others have become fed up with this kind of caste politics. So, that section now talks about practicing politics beyond caste, Secondly, a chunk of middle class has moved out of Bihar, and whosoever remains are beneficiaries of the system, and part of the establishment. Though, a small class bourgeoisie has emerged in Bihar, it is so entrenched in all the political parties that it would have political consequence.
BJP may fight Bihar polls in the name of development and not in the name of Modi. BJP is unlikely to do Modi versus Nitish and Laloo. Bihar is different from other states. Even top leaders have zonal influences. Some leaders are strong in Mithilanchal, some in Magadh while some in Bhojpur regions of the state.
So, declaring the BJP CM candidate before election is most unlikely. On the other hand, vote to Modi in May 2015 was not for his excellence but due to heavy dissatisfaction with the Congress, which played a key role in bringing Laloo and Nitish together so that BJP is defeated in the state, and weakened nationally. No such level of UPA kind of anti-incumbency exists in Bihar against Nitish Kumar.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Upper Caste (14.6%): Rajputs, Bhumiars, Brahmins, Kayastha
Upper OBC (22%): Yadavs (13%), Kurmis (3%), Koeris (4.5%), Banias etc.
Lower OBC (30%): Kahar, Kumhar, Lohar, Tatwu ,Teli, Dhanuk etc.
Scheduled Caste (16%): Chamar, <g data-gr-id="190">Dusadh</g>, <g data-gr-id="191">Mushar</g>
Upper Caste: Sheikhs, <g data-gr-id="187">Syeds</g>, Pathans, Mallick
<g data-gr-id="192">Pasmanda</g> Muslims (Backward and Dalit Muslims): <g data-gr-id="193">Ansaris</g>, <g data-gr-id="194">Dhuniyas</g>, <g data-gr-id="195">Rayeen</g>, Hajam, <g data-gr-id="189"><g data-gr-id="196">Darzis</g> ,</g> Bhathiara, Nats, Dhobi etc.