Covid-19 scuttles meetings in Bihar’s urban areas to decide voting on caste lines
While the fear of Covid-19 is stopping people in urban areas from holding meetings on caste lines to decide the voting pattern, there is a churn among both so-called upper and lower castes in the rural areas to decide who should be voted en bloc.Updated: Oct 25, 2020, 13:02 IST
Rallies for the Bihar assembly elections may be drawing large crowds, but the fear of Covid-19 is a deterrent for people in urban areas to hold meetings to decide on voting on caste lines in the caste-sensitive state.
Although a few meetings have taken place, consensus has remained elusive. About 40 km west of Gaya town, Rajputs held three rounds of meetings at Pinrasin, Nigri and Jamuain villages under Sherghati sub-division over the last fortnight to decide whom to vote for. However, there was no consensus on what the voting pattern should be and observers say there are chances that the upper caste vote could be split in Sherghati constituency.
While the fear of Covid-19 is stopping people in urban areas from holding meetings on caste lines to decide the voting pattern, there is a churn among both so-called upper and lower castes in the rural areas to decide who should be voted en bloc.
“From Sherghati there are three contestants in the race - sitting JD (U) MLA Vinod Prasad Yadav, RJD’s Manju Agarwal and LJP’s Mukesh Kumar Yadav. You cannot rule out development and employment issues, but ultimately it will come to the caste line on which the votes will be decided. With two Yadavs in the fray, the RJD may get advantage,” said Sanjay Kumar, husband of Wari panchayat sarpanch, under Sherghati sub-division.
“Formal meetings of caste groups in urban areas and cities are not being held due to fear of coronavirus. But in rural areas there are reports that formal meetings on caste lines are being held,” said Ram Vilas Singh, head of political science department at Magadh University in Bodh Gaya.
“People in urban areas will weigh in the work done by sitting MLAs and not caste this time, but in rural areas people will consider both caste and promises made by parties,” he said.
Patna, national secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kayastha Mahasabha, Pramod Kumar said till the last assembly election, meetings used to be held to decide whom the Kayasthas would vote for.
“However, the fear of coronavirus is stopping people from gathering at a place for meetings. So this time, nothing can be predicted where the vote of Kayasthas will go,” he said.
The eight constituencies of Patna district, including Digha, Bankipore, Kumhrar, Patna Sahib, Fatuha, Danapur, Maner and Phulwarisharif will vote in the second phase of polling on November 3.
Akhil Bharatiya Koli Samaj, president, Shivendra Kumar Tanti, said for the past few weeks he has been receiving calls from the outfit’s district heads asking which candidate to vote for. He claimed that there was a sizable chunk of voters from his community in the Kosi region. He also said that in urban areas no meetings are being held to decide on voting patterns because of Covid-19.
Dinesh Paswan of Baba Chauharmal Nirman Samittee, said, “Every year, a week-long Baba Chauharmal mela (fair) used to be held in Phulwarisharif area of Patna, but this year due to Covid-19 this was not possible. The mela would have been an occasion in which the voting strategy would have been discussed.”
According to the handbook on social welfare statistics, 2018, the population of the Paswan community in Bihar was 49,45,165, while among the scheduled castes the count of Ravidas was 49,00,048.
Former director of AN Sinha Institute DM Diwakar, said, “The effect of coronavirus will have an impact on voting in urban areas, which otherwise also witnessed low turnout. The upper middle class will not step out their homes to vote out of fear of Covid. In rural areas, the committed voters of RJD, including Yadavs and Muslims, will vote for it, besides the Left cadre votes will also transfer en bloc to Left candidates.”
Fearing that the voters might not step out of their homes due to Covid fear, in Patna, many candidates have set up a separate cell that is contacting individual voters to know what problem they are facing for voting.
Nina Jaiswal of Ashiana locality in Patna said she was contacted by a cell member of Digha BJP candidate Sanjeev Chaurasia to know whether her name was included in the voting list or not.
Diwakar acknowledged that the voting pattern in urban areas could spring some surprise.