Bihar Elections 2010: Caste or Development?

Posted on September 18, 2010 in Politics

By Kumar Ankit:

Bihar, one of the most politically rich states of the country is gearing up for the State elections to be held in six phases from 21st October to 19thNovember, 2010. The media and the politically savvy have already started their rounds of prophecy on who is going to win the elections.

But before moving ahead let’s not forget that this round of elections is much more important from many perspectives. For the very first time the state will witness two stalwarts and a disciple of JP locking horns directly. So it can be termed as a battle for legacy. Secondly in these elections many are of the view that for the first time Bihar is going to vote for development and not on the basis of caste cards.

It will be quite interesting to see whether the agenda shifts to development from caste or not. It seems a Utopian situation, if we talk about Bihar because still 90 % of the population lives in villages.

NDA says that development will be the only factor. But it is still not confident about its own claims and that is one of the reasons why they have bestowed presidentship on Vijay Chaudhary after removing Lalan Singh. To do further damage control they even called upon Ex-MP from Jahanabad Arun Kumar and Jagdish Sharma who had revolted against the party line by making his wife contest in the Assembly by-elections. These things were done in order to reach the Bhumihar voters who were feeling alienated after a series of incidents. As Lalan Singh was sidelined and finally thrown away, Nitish was in a mood to pass the bataidar (sharecropper) bill, by sending upper caste leaders in jail and by accepting Lalu’s old guard in the party. In order to clamp the Bhumihar voters Nitish even gave freedom to the likes of Munna Shukla, Sunil Pandey and Anant Singh so that a stronger message goes to the 6% strong Bhumihar voters that the JDU government is still with them and is not cutting their wings. However it will be interesting to observe as to in which direction the Bhumihar votebank tilts, which blindly supported Nitish last time and helped him uproot Lalu’s vote bank.

Talking about the RJD — LJP alliance, they are also trying their best to woo the Bhumihar voters. Lalu in the 1990s gave the slogan of “भूरा बाल साफ़ करो” which means clean Bhumihar and Rajput from the mainstream politics. This time he is playing safe and knows the importance of upper caste voters. So this time he has changed his slogan to “भूरा बाल माफ करो एंड कुर्मी कोयरी को साफ़ करो”. After seeing the rising popularity of Nitish, Lalu has changed his game a bit and in order to win upper caste vote he is seemingly seeking to forgive the upper caste and making a pitch to clean up kurmi koyri (Nitish Kumar belongs to the Kurmi caste). Lalu’s main weapon for the Bhumihar voters will be ex-cabinet minister Akhilesh Singh.

LJP is banking upon Surajbhan Singh, for Bhumihar voters. Congress at the time has no mass leader from the Bhumihar community. Ram Jatan Singh and Anil Sharma are things from the past.

Over all there is no mass leader in this community. Every leader has his own local influence. So it will be quite interesting to see whether Bhumihar voters would once again try their best to vote Nitish to power or play spoilsport by dividing their vote share.

This was the first part of the Bihar elections. We will review other caste factors in the next part.

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