Bihar Assembly Election 2020: RJD matches JD (U) in giving tickets to EBC candidates
Extremely backward castes (EBC) are an important group of 135 castes, which have supported JD (U) in the past three elections. The RJD has tried to woo them by giving more representation to them in ticket distributionUpdated: Oct 16, 2020, 17:08 IST
The extremely backward castes (EBCs) appeared to have captured the consciousness of parties, cutting across ideological lines, while nominating candidates for the upcoming three-phase Bihar assembly elections.
An analysis of the list of the candidates declared to date reinforced this discernible trend.
Most political parties have given EBCs, who consist of 26% of the state’s population and are politically more flexible than other caste grouping, a higher share of seats, as compared to the previous elections, the analysis showed.
The EBCs had been a distinct political force in Bihar politics and had supported the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in the 1995 polls.
However, they had started pivoting away from the RJD during the turn of the new millennium, when Yadavs, who belong to the other backward class (OBC), emerged as the more dominant force in the socio-political totem pole among backward classes.
Yadav’s prominence coincided with the RJD’s stranglehold on power.
Janata Dal (United) JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar identified the EBCs as a separate political force and carved a quota for them from the OBC reservation in 2007, which proved to be a game-changer and a masterstroke at the expense of the RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s clever caste and religion calculus of the Muslim and Yadav combine during his party’s uninterrupted 15-year rule between 1990 and 2015 .
Kumar’s move has paid rich dividends and pushed the RJD to the margins.
However, the outgoing chief minister’s Kumar’s 15-rule may hit a bump this time around and other party leaders believe that the EBCs are primed to shift their allegiance yet again.
The Grand Alliance (GA), or the mahagathbandhan, comprising the RJD, the Congress and the Left parties, is looking to exploit the chink in JD (U)-led National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) armour and has nominated 29 EBC candidates, which is the highest in recent elections.
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Of the 29 EBC candidates, 25 and five belonged to the RJD and the Congress, respectively.
Manoj Jha, RJD’s Rajya Sabha (RS) member and the party’s national spokesperson, said the bigger representation to the EBCs was a reflection of the party’s commitment to stitch together a rainbow representation of all caste and religious groupings, one of the keys to win elections in the state.
“The RJD is a party for all Biharis. We want to give representations to all sections of the society and it has aptly reflected in our ticket distribution. We practise what we preach. Our party has a transparent ideological mooring,” he said.
Political experts said that the RJD seems to have gone back to its 1995 model, when Prasad had formed his only majority government on the back of the EBCs’ support. He had branded the EBCs as a genie that had the potential to tilt scales for any political combination.
The RJD, true to its wont, has given majority of its seats to its traditional vote base of the Muslim-Yadav combine.
Of the 144 seats, where the RJD has put up its candidates, Muslims and Yadvas are in the fray in 17 and 58 constituencies, respectively,
The RJD has accommodated 12 candidates from upper castes.
A RJD leader explained that this number should not be seen in isolation, as its GA ally, the Congress, has taken care of the perceived shortfall.
The Congress, which is contesting in 70 seats, has pandered to upper castes, comprising Brahmins, Bhumihars, Rajputs and Kayasthas, in 34 constituencies.
The Congress has also given 12 tickets each to Muslim and Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates in a bid to project its secular credentials.
The ruling JD (U) and the BJP, which have experimented with social engineering such as a clever mix of forward castes, EBCs and SCs since its ascent to power in the 2005 October polls, has fallen back on its tried and tested formula.
The JD (U), which has managed to reap dividends because of the support from EBCs, has given tickets to 19 members of the caste groupings.
Though in absolute numbers, the figure is the same as that of the RJD, in percentage terms it is higher because the JD (U) is contesting in 122 seats in the 243-member Bihar legislative assembly, as compared to the rival’s 144.
A JD (U) leader said 77 tickets have been given to deprived sections of the society, including backward classes, Muslims and SCs.
“The support of EBCs is essential, as the party is facing challenge from the RJD and also the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which is trying to play spoilsport after breaking its alliance with the NDA and going solo,” said a JD (U) leader, requesting anonymity.
He said CM Kumar is also eyeing women as a consolidated vote bank. The JD (U) has fielded 22 women candidates, which is the highest for any party in the upcoming assembly polls.
The JD (U)’s strike rate in 2015 assembly elections was around 90% in seats, where women voters’ turnout was more than their male counterparts.
The BJP is contesting in 121 seats and allotted 11 constituencies to its minor ally, Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP), which is spearheaded by Bollywood set designer Mukesh Sahani.
The BJP has tweaked its caste calculus in ticket distribution, as it is making a bid to woo Rajputs and traditional RJD supporters such as Yadav, as compared to its traditional support base of Bhumihars.
The BJP has given tickets to 21 and 11 Rajput and Yadav, candidates, respectively, as compared to 15 Bhumihars.
The party has also tried to balance the delicate caste equation by giving 15 seats each to Brahmins and SCs.
However, Kushwaha, Kayashtha and Vaishya candidates have got marginal representation.
“Our party never allots tickets on the lines of caste. Winnibility holds the key. Our aim is to accommodate people from a cross-section of the society,” said Sanjay Mayunkh, BJP’s national spokesperson and member of Bihar legislative council.
The LJP, which has released a list of 42 candidates, has given tickets to 18 candidates, who belong to upper castes. It has nominated 13 EBC candidates and another 10 from SCs and Scheduled Tribes (STs). The party has nominated only a single Muslim candidate so far.
The LJP has decided to contest on all the 122 seats, where its arch-rival JD (U) has put up candidates.
Patna-based political observer DM Diwakar said EBCs are the flavour of the election season, especially for the RJD because it seeks to make a dent in the JD (U)’s traditional support base.
“CM Kumar has crafted the EBCs along with Mahadalits as his strong support base over the years through a deft social engineering. This time around, the RJD, which once enjoyed unflinching EBC support, is trying to make inroads into the JD (U)’s traditional vote base. It is evident from the RJD’s ticket distribution pattern,” he said.
Bihar goes to polls on October 28, November 3 and 7.
The election results will be announced on November 10.
(with inputs from Subhash Pathak, Vijay Swaroop)