The BJP’s dependence on upper caste support is directly proportional to the Janata Alliance’s reliance on the Yadavs in its bid to consolidate backward caste votes in the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections.
And this is not only because RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s two sons — Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejaswai Yadav — will make their electoral debut this time.
In the list of candidates announced by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday, the biggest chunk of 64 seats went to the Yadavs. The BJP has given its biggest chunk of 65 seats to upper caste candidates.
A comparison of the Janata Alliance’s list with the NDA’s list indicates the two rival coalitions have concentrated on their respective traditional caste bases while also forging rainbow alliances to attract other communities.
Accordingly, 134 of the total 242 candidates, or about 55 per cent, declared by the Janata Alliance are from backward communities. Of these 134 BC candidates, as many as 64 seats have gone to the Yadavs. There are 22 Kushwahas, 16 Kurmis and about 25 EBCs plus six Vaishyas among the BC candidates fielded by the Alliance.
Backbone of fight At the same time, the BJP has fielded as many as 65 upper caste candidates in the total 234 seats declared so far. Of these, as many as 30 are Rajputs, 19 Bhumihars, 13 Brahmins and just about three Kayasthas.
So, while upper castes form the backbone of the BJP’s fight, Yadavs carry the torch for the Janata Alliance.
This also goes show that while Nitish is the present and projected chief ministerial candidate for the Alliance, the real fight is between Lalu Prasad and the BJP. So the Yadavs get 64 seats while Nitish’s own community, the Kurmis, have been allotted just about 16 seats.
It is also commensurate with the demographic proportions of the two communities. While the Yadavs form about 14 per cent of the population in Bihar, Kurmis are about 4 per cent.
Of course, both alliances have tried to forge rainbow coalitions to attract castes other than their traditional social support bases.
In this venture, the BJP has fielded as many as two dozen Yadavs while about 16 per cent i.e. 39 of the Janata Alliance’s seats have gone to the “general category”, a euphemism for upper caste candidates. Among them, there are 13 Bhumihars, 12 Rajputs, nine Brahmins and five Kayasthas.
Forty seats of the Mahagathbandhan — or 16 per cent — have gone to SC/ST candidates while 33 candidates, or about 14 per cent, are Muslims.
As per the 2011 Census, Muslims are close to 16.8 per cent of the State’s population. The number of seats given to Muslims is, therefore, much lesser than their population in the State.
The biggest disappointment was in store for women. Of the total 242 candidates declared today, only 10 per cent, i.e. 25, were women.
Lalu’s sons Tej Pratap and Tejaswi will contest from Mahua and Raghopur respectively. Both the seats in Vaishali district were with the JD(U) in the 2010 Assembly elections.
Both Nitish and Lalu are not contesting polls themselves.
The JD(U) and RJD are contesting 101 seats each, while the Congress is contesting 41. A majority of the seats where the Congress is contesting are in urban areas and held by the BJP for a long time.
It was also seen that a number of JD(U) and RJD candidates have been “adjusted” in the Congress list. For instance, the wife of JD(U) strongman Kaushal Yadav, Purnima Yadav, has been given the Congress ticket from Gobindpur.
Purnima is the sitting MLA from Nawada. Kaushal, the sitting MLA from Gobindpur, has been fielded from the Nawada seat on a JD(U) ticket.
Musclemen candidates The number of bahubalis (musclemen) may have dwindled in the list but they do have a presence. Prahlad Yadav, a known name in the sand mafia circles in Lakhisarai, has been fielded on the RJD ticket from Suryagarha constituency in the same district. Similarly, Nitish has fielded strongman Dadan Singh Yadav from Dumraon in Buxar district.
The announcement of seats has also triggered heartburn among those who have been denied ticket.
Protests were held by various members as well as supporters of Health Minister Ram Dhani Singh, who have been denied ticket by the JD(U).