Caste dynamics has been the bedrock of Bihar’s politics and this time the two opposing forces – the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the opposition Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) – have gone back to social engineering drawing boards to select candidates…writes Gautam Datt
More than half of Bihar’s constituencies have sizable SC/ST populations that will play a decisive role in the outcome of the polls on all 40 Lok Sabha seats.
There are nine seats in Bihar with over 20 per cent SC/ST population and in 16 constituencies the number is between 15 and 20 per cent.
Aurangabad and Gaya have the maximum SC/ST population (over 20 per cent in both the seats). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded outgoing MP Sushil Kumar Singh from Aurangabad who will face Upendra Prasad of Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM), a Mahagathbandhan constituent.
Gaya will see a contest between Vijay Kumar Manjhi of Janata Dal-United and HAM founder Jitan Ram Manjhi. Out of the 40 constituencies, six are designated as reserved by the Election Commission.
Such has been the caste dynamics that the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the main constituent of Mahagathbandhan, had to concede 11 seats to caste-based political outfits of backwards and Mahadalits.
The newly floated Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP), eyeing the Nishads (boatmen) community, has managed to get three Lok Sabha seats, a phenomenal feat for a debutant in the cluttered Bihar political space. The community, divided in 20 sub-castes, is around 1.75 crore strong.
VIP founder Mukesh Sahani is contesting from Khagaria and Dr. Rajbhushan Chaudhri Nishad will take on Ajay Nishad of the BJP in Muzaffarpur.
The other key constituent of Mahagathbandhan — Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) — gets to fight five seats. The party broke away from the NDA to join the opposition alliance after being left out by the BJP and JD-U.
The RJD will fight 20 seats (out of which it has decided to let CPI-ML contest from Aara), the Congress is contesting nine seats and HAM and VIP three seats each. Five have gone to RLSP.
The Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Class (EBCs) form 51 per cent of the state’s population. This includes 14 per cent Yadavs, 4 per cent Kurmis and 8 per cent Kushwahas (Koeri).
At least 16 per cent of Bihar’s population is Mahadalit and dalits (SCs) while 16.9 per cent of population is Muslim. Forward caste constitue 15 per cent.
In the NDA, the BJP and JD-U are contesting 17 seats each while six have gone to Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
At least five seats with sitting BJP MPs — Valmikinagar, Jhanjharpur, Gopalganj, Siwan and Gaya — are now being contested by the JD-U. Union Minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh’s seat Nawada has gone to LJP.