With the mainline political parties gradually coming out with their lists of candidates, one thing is becoming increasingly clear that the influence of Upper Castes, who played a lead role up to the 1980s in Bihar politics, is certainly on the wane due to the changing contours of caste and political equations. Now, there is a rising trend to woo the minority, other backward classes (OBCs), Dalits and the Mahadalits.
After Mayawati's masterstroke in Uttar Pradesh through an alliance of Brahmins and Dalits in a new social engineering that left her adversaries completely flummoxed, it has become the buzzword in poll-bound Bihar. But in distribution of tickets, all the major parties have been extra cautious.
It is a new social engineering that is evident here. Congress, once dubbed as the party of upper castes in Bihar, is attempting more to attract minorities, the backwards and the extremely backward classes, who have been the mainstay of support for both RJD-LJP combine as well as JD-U. Of the 122 seats it has released so far, 32 seats have gone to the Upper castes, while Minorities have got 35 seats and OBCs, EBCs 48.
We have tried to give representation to all sections. We have 54 of the candidates less than 40 years of age, while 16 are women. Similar trend will be followed in the other lists of candidates, said Congress spokesman Premchandra Mishra.
Lalu Prasad, whose party ruled Bihar for 15 long years on the back of the Muslim-Yadav combination, reached out to the upper castes by promising the poor among them 10 per cent reservation should the RJD-LJP combine come to power. But in ticket distribution, it has stuck to its tested formula, with 27 of the 65 seats going to the Yadavs and 17 to the Muslims. Just three seats have gone to the Upper Castes.
Its ally, the LJP has, however, tried to make amends, by fielding 17 upper caste candidates in the list of 58 released so far. The emphasis of the LJP is also on its traditional votebank, with EBCs and OBCs getting18 seats, Dalits10 and minorities13.
The BJP has given more than 40 per cent seats to the upper castes (Bhumihars: 10, Brahmins: 10, Rajputs: 10, Kayastha - 1). It has given 35 seats out of 87 announced so far, which is no surprise for the party. In the National Democratic Alliance, the share of Upper Caste is around 32 percent.
Its ally, the JD-U has given 33 seats to the upper caste out of 127 announced so far, which comes to 26 percent share. Rajput candidates have got the maximum 15 seats, followed by 11 for Bhumihars and seven for Brahmins.
However, JD-U concerted effort to make a dent in the OBC and Dalit vote banks is still on course, with 55 seats going to OBC, MBC and EBC candidates.
In keeping with the party policy of development with justice, we have tried to give representation to all those sections, which hitherto remained unrepresented despite having numbers. Even women have got more tickets this time, said JD-U spokesman Shivanand Tewari.
The BSP seems to be in a mood to once again use its social engineering, which worked wonders in Uttar Pradesh, in Bihar also. We have given representation to all sections and hope the UP formula works like a charm here as well,” said party leader Azad Gandhi.
Though the BSP is not a major player here, it has the ability to upset the gameplan of many. Of the 161 candidates it has so far announced, there are 43 upper castes. Among the rest, 48 seats have gone to the OBC, 18 to the EBC, 31 to the SC, 19 to the minorities and one each to Adivasi and Christian.
Another significant aspect of the list is the dominance of Yadavs in virtually all the political parties. It is not just the RJD, which has fielded 27 of them. The Congress has fielded 10 Yadavs, while the NDA has 32 (JD-U 24 and BJP 8).
The BSP also has eight Yadavs. Similar is the case with Dalits, OBCs and EBCs, which constituent a major segment everywhere, like the minorities. However, in case of women, except JD-U and Congress, all parties still seem hesitant.
So, in poll bound Bihar, nothing can be taken for granted, for a division of votes among the favoured groups may throw up many a surprise.