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Home / India News / BJP banks on rainbow coalition of castes to bag votes in Bihar polls

BJP banks on rainbow coalition of castes to bag votes in Bihar polls

india Updated: Oct 18, 2020, 23:43 IST

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is counting on the support of a rainbow coalition of castes including the Dalits, who weren’t traditionally considered to be part of its support base, to ensure the return of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to power in the upcoming Bihar assembly elections.

The party has allocated 50% of seats to contestants from so-called non-upper castes, which is a reinforcement of its acceptance across caste groups, a senior BJP functionary said on Sunday. The party has also fielded 51 candidates from the Kayastha, Rajput, Bhumihar and Brahmin communities who belong to the upper castes that are traditionally considered BJP supporters.

“Of the 110 names announced so far, 50 are from the Dalit, Mahadalit and the ST {scheduled tribe} communities. We have the support of each of these communities for the pro-development policies of the BJP,” the functionary said, requesting anonymity.

With Mahadalit leader and former chief minister Jitin Ram Manjhi and his Hindustani Awam Morcha {HAM} and Mukesh Sahni of the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) joining the NDA, which also has chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janarta Dal (United), or JD (U) among its constituents, the BJP says the alliance has an appeal cutting across caste lines.

“The BJP believes in empowerment of all castes and groups and has a larger social base as compared to other political parties,” said national general secretary and in-charge of Bihar, Bhupender Yadav.

Support from the Dalits and the iother backward classes (OBCs) is not the only reason for the BJP’s optimism about its performance in the three-phase election spread over October 28, November 3 and November 7.

The party also believes that the so-called lower castes are distancing themselves from the opposition Mahagathbandhan, or grand alliance comprising the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and Left parties.

“There are four important social groups, the Mahadalits, the EBCs {economically backward classes}, the OBCs and the tribals; and all of these have quit the Mahagathbandhan. The Mahadalits are with the BJP; RLSP {Rashtriya Lok Samta Party} that represents the OBCs walked out of the alliance, the EBCs (VIP) said they were stabbed in the back and the JMM {Jharkhand Mukti Morcha}, which represents the STs, has also kept away. This is an indication that the aspirations of these communities cannot be met by any other entity other than the NDA,” said the functionary quoted above.

EBCs that make up 30% of the electorate are among the most courted voters. While the BJP has given five seats to EBC candidates, it also gave 11 seats from its share of 121 to the VIP. In 2015, the BJP gave 25 seats to EBC candidates, of which 12 won.

The OBCs that make uo 22% of the electorate have been fielded from 15 constituencies in a bid to create a dent in the RJD’s vote bank.

The NDA is expected to gain from the BJP’s largely upper caste vote bank and the JD (U)’s clout with the EBC and OBC voters.

The JD (U)’s focus on the Mahadalits is expected to give the NDA a shot in the arm. There are around 100-odd seats, where the Dalits and the Mahadalits hold sway. And the NDA will make the most of a recent Supreme Court ruling that SC and STs do not constitute a homogenous group and sub-categorisation of these groups can be considered by the states.

Since the general election of 2014, there is a perception that the BJP has been trying to shed its image as a party of Brahamins and Baniyas; which is why it has made assiduous attempts to woo the non-dominant OBCs.

“The BJP’s agenda of development overrides caste. Unlike the BSP or the RJD that thrived on caste consolidation and were unabashed about catering only to the Dalits, the Yadavs and the Muslims; the BJP chose to focus on empowerment of all and winnability of the candidates,” said a second BJP functionary.

The second functionary said that even the JD (U) and the Lok Jan Shakti Party that were considered partial to the OBCs, Dalits and the Muslims have fielded 18 and 16 upper caste candidates and the RJD has 12 upper caste contestants.

Commenting on the BJP’s outreach towards the Dalits, OBCs and EBCs, political commentator and Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Ajay Gudavarthy said: “Under Amit Shah’s leadership, BJP moved beyond the Brahmin-Bania base and extended it to Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs by giving them greater representation. This makes their pan-Hindu claims real strong. Not offering seats to Muslims gives them this ironical advantage of having more seats to spare for different sections of the Hindus unlike the Mahagatbandhan. It also makes it an exclusive Hindu party.”

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