The swabhiman rally held on Sunday at Gandhi Maidan was the first big show of unity by the JD(U), RJD and Congress against the BJP-led NDA , boosting their attempts to revive the 1990s era Mandal politics ahead of crucial Bihar assembly polls.
Buoyed by the huge turnout, the grand alliance leaders, particularly Lalu Prasad, harped on the unity of backward classes and dalits and stressed that the BJP was not the party of backwards and dalits. “The BJP is not the party of backwards and dalits. It has not allowed entry of dalits into temples,” Prasad said.
Since caste remains an integral part of political calculations and electoral politics in Bihar, the leaders again attempted to reinforce the Mandal bloc under one umbrella and influence the electoral choices of people. The need for Mandal consolidation and political realignment has largely been induced by defeat of Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) in the Lok Sabha elections.
The rally came as an advantage for the grand alliance and cemented the differences among their leaders, who were hitherto unwilling to share the dais.
“It will also serve to cement the contradictions among the three parties and pave the way for a united fight against the BJP at the national level. After the huge response of the people, we are confident of stopping the BJP juggernaut in Bihar polls this time. We will also carry forward this unity in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to the polls in 2017,” said state JD(U) president Bashishtha Narayan Singh.
The rally also came as a boost to the sagging image of Congress at the national level after its debacle in the Lok Sabha polls. It also pushed Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the centre stage of anti-BJP politics with the support of regional political parties like JD(U), RJD and Samajwadi Party.
“The era of anti-Congress politics is a passé now. The country faces new challenges from a party, which is bent upon breaking the secular and social fabric of the country. It is imperative that we forget our past and come together for a larger cause”, said JD(U) president Sharad Yadav.
The real hero to emerge in this political exercise was RJD chief, who has the capability of foiling the designs of BJP by virtue of the support he still enjoys among Yadavs and Muslims, which together constitute nearly 35% votes. The presence of Muslims and Yadavs in large numbers at the rally proved that Lalu still commands respect among his Muslim-Yadav combination.
The rally, which was by all accounts a successful exercise by the grand alliance, indicated that BJP’s bid to form a government in Bihar would not be an easy task, if they did not work hard to garner support from the social justice group especially the Yadavs and the EBCs.
The BJP, which is trying to take away the Lohiaite agenda of backward class politics by projecting and rallying around Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an OBC, in the Bihar elections, it needs to work hard on the agenda of becoming the party of all social classes.
As the grand leaders sounded the poll bugle exhorting people to reject the BJP in the upcoming Bihar assembly elections and save Bihar from the saffron onslaught, NCP leader Tariq Anwar called it a “caste rally” and an attempt to unite a particular caste through this rally.
“The show of unity, however, is fraught with intrigues and differences as it is not sure for how long the people sharing the dais would be together in the coming future as everyone has their own selfish motives and interests,” the NCP leader said.
Though the caste dynamics appears to have moved a full circle now, it is anybody’s guess whether Nitish and Lalu would be able to reconsolidate the Mandal castes, which they broke for their individual political ambitions.