Desperate BJP turns to castes in Bihar as growth plank fails to work
The BJP has appointed Nityanand Rai, an OBC  leader, as the president of Bihar state unit while another OBC leader Bhupendra Yadav was made in-charge of party’s Bihar affairs. File photo. PTI

Desperate BJP turns to castes in Bihar as growth plank fails to work

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has been traditionally known as the party of the upper castes for long. Now with the pressure to perform well in the Lok Sabha (LS) elections to retain power in New Delhi, the party in a curious move has tried its best to reinvest itself by shifting its focus on the vast backward and Dalit class to win their support.

In the last LS polls, the BJP with two smaller allies, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) headed by Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha respectively had made a clean sweep in Bihar, winning 31 out of state’s total 40 seats. The BJP alone had emerged victorious on 22 seats out of 30 it had contested. But, now the entire political situation in the state has undergone a complete change.

With the anti-incumbency factor working hard against the BJP, Modi’s ‘chaiwala’ image a total flop and at least two allies dumping the NDA, the BJP has been compelled to rework its poll strategy. Although the JD-U headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar has returned to the BJP camp but the latter doesn’t seem to be much helpful this time for his image of shifting his allies so frequently.

The compulsions have, thus, forced the BJP to reach out to the vast OBC and dalit class to improve its tally in the Lok Sabha. Under part of this strategy, the party has now given tickets to seven persons from the Other Backward Castes (OBC)/Extremely Backward Castes (EBC)/Dalit Class to get their support. That is when the BJP is contesting on only 17 LS seats this time under the seat sharing arrangement. An equal number of 17 seats have been allotted to the JD-U while the remaining six seats have been offered to the LJP.

Desperate times, desperate measures needed

Not only that, the BJP has also appointed Nityanand Rai, an OBC  leader, as the president of Bihar state unit while another OBC leader Bhupendra Yadav was made in-charge of party’s Bihar affairs. If that was not enough, the party also observed the birth anniversaries of Karpuri Thakur, a backward class leader, and BR Ambedkar, a leader form dalit community, on large scale in Bihar to get support these two communities, amply indicating the desperation in the BJP to win the support of these two communities who hold key to political success.

Finally, as a last resort, the BJP has gone on projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “backward” leader in its attempt to cut into the vote-bank of RJD chief Lalu Prasad who enjoys much popularity among the OBC community. Prasad is now in jail in connection with fodder scam. In a setback to the party, the Tejashwi Yadav, former deputy chief minister and younger son Prasad, has rejected Modi as a backward leader and described him as a “fake OBC”.

“Yes @narendramodi ji is a fake OBC. He became OBC when he was 55 years old. OBCs don’t accept him as OBC as he hasn’t done anything for them. He hates OBCs and believe in ‘varna system’ (caste system),” Tejashwi alleged. Questioning his credibility further, Tejashwi said there is no official from OBC community in the PMO, there is no vice-chancellor from OBC in the country and also no director of any constitutional institutions in the country are from this community, leaving the BJP in an awkward situation.

What is further important, the BSP chief Mayawati too endorsed the allegations of Tejashwi in her election speech she made at Mainpuri town in UP yesterday. “Mulayam Singh Yadav is not a ‘fake’ backward leader like Narendra Modi,” she said in her speech. A spate of such allegations has left the BJP leadership embarrassed at this crucial time when the electioneering has picked up momentum.

“As such the BJP has very little to show as its achievements and hence it is making every attempts to somehow win the support of the masses. You can see how the PM has been focusing on only two things in his election speeches—either attacking the Congress or the Pakistan while he must have rattled out the list of his achievements in the past five years and his vision for the next five years,” commented a political expert wishing not be named.

In a major worry to the party, however, the BJP’s move to reinvest itself has virtually boomeranged, hugely annoying the upper castes, especially the Bhumihar caste voters who have been the hardcore supporters of the party for the past about three decades. The dominant Bhumihar castemen revolted recently when only one person from this community was given ticket against six persons from another Rajput caste, another upper caste.

Independent candidates galore

The overall situation turned serious when two leaders from Bhumihar community declared to contest elections as independent candidates after being denied party tickets. With every attempt to get them out of poll scene going in vain, both the leaders were brought to Delhi with a chartered plane early this week and presented before BJP chief Amit Shah. It was only after they were promised a berth in the Rajya Sabha/State Legislative Council that they finally agreed to work for the party.

As such, Bhumihars had been the traditional supporters of the Congress but they shifted their loyalty to the BJP in the 90’s after the Congress leadership extended support to run the RJD government during which regime a number of persons from this community had been massacred in the bloody clashes between the Maoists and the Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords. The Ranvir Sena was formed by Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya who was later shot dead by unidentified gunmen in June 2012. The Sena was formed in 1994 soon after 37 members from Bhumihar community was hacked to death by Maoists in February 1992. In the coming days, the Ranvir Sena carried out several massacres in the south-central Bihar, targeting mainly the backwards and the dalit villagers as the government looked helpless.

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