It may have carpet bombed Bihar with promises of development but bang in the middle of the elections, the BJP appears to be increasing its focus on extremely backward classes (EBCs) for victory in a state that has traditionally voted on caste lines.
The NDA has swiftly moved from announcing a massive package to also issuing advertisements that say Grand Alliance leaders Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar are scared of Prime Minister Narendra Modi because he is from the EBC category.
The BJP is locked in a neck-and-neck fight with the Grand Alliance and the EBCs — that constitute over 25% of the electorate — hold the key, especially in the two rounds of polling left.
The new ad campaign seeks to consolidate BJP’s sway among the EBCs that is being aggressively wooed by JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
“Our advertisements have only sought to highlight that the social background of any person cannot hold back their advancement in life. Even those who come from socially backward communities can aspire to dream big. The PM is a role model for them,” Bihar BJP spokesman Devesh Kumar said.
The party has now issued prime-time television ads that flaunt Modi’s “humble background” as someone who lived the “pain and sufferings of the deprived and backwards”.
The EBC vote is crucial to the BJP as it is assured that the upper castes and a portion of the Dalits will back it. But it is not hopeful of getting support from the Yadavs and Kushwahas — around 20% of the population — and wants to compensate this loss with the EBC vote.
Caste considerations were always important for the BJP but it got stronger after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on reservations.
“The backwards have realised they need to unite and bury differences to survive the RSS’ plan of scrapping reservations. This has rattled Modi,” Prasad told HT.
But the former CM has his own worries. The RJD rule that spanned 15 years saw the Yadavs dominate at the expense of several other backward communities.
Kumar capitalised on this sentiment for the next 10 years. Prasad and Kumar now have to bridge this gap between the Yadavs and EBCs.
“Backwards fear the rise of upper castes more than that of some community from among them,” RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said.