Bihar's Caste Survey 2023: Impact on the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections
Caste is the biggest factor to define the social structure of Bihar and people choose their life partner and elect their representatives from the same caste as theirs.
There is a perception here that people from the same caste may be better disposed and more trustworthy than people from other castes.
Politicians, especially in the current ruling parties, understand this mentality of the people and went for the caste based survey to make people aware about their actual strength.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav who are well aware of the caste combinations of Bihar, released the data of the caste based survey on October 2 with the aim to clear the confusion among people about their numbers. Also, the chance of creating confusion in the minds of voters by the political parties would no longer fully apply in Bihar following this report.
The Bihar government has counted 215 castes and their actual numbers. This would turn out to be a master stroke by Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, to counter the Narendra Modi led BJP.
For Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, the caste based survey is similar to the Mandal Commission report that was brought by Vishawanath Pratap Singh after assuming power at the Centre. At that time, he was confronting the Congress party which was represented by and large by people of the upper castes. Now, the upper castes are the core voters of the BJP and Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar released the caste based survey to defeat the saffron party.
The two know that the Lok Sabha election 2024 would be fought around the OBCs and PM Narendra Modi will play this card to lure the voters in the country and Bihar. Nitish and Lalu Prasad knew that the numbers of OBC and EBC are higher in Bihar and they came up with the actual numbers to avoid any confusion among the voters. Moreover, they do not want the BJP to create confusion in Bihar in the name of the OBCs.
Shivanand Tiwari, the national vice president of the RJD said: “Narendra Modi became scared after the release of the caste based survey and the way he is choosing his words betrays his uneasiness. On the other hand, the deprived section of society is also feeling uneasy. They have contributed their labour and hard work in building the nation but their status is similar to second class.”
Over the years, the BJP has come to be known as the party of the upper castes. They are the core voters of the BJP and are 15.52% including Bhumihars who are 2.86%, Brahmins are 3.66%, Rajputs are 3.45%, and Kayasthas are 0.60% in Bihar.
On the other hand, Nitish Kumar has core voters who come from the Lav-Kush equation where Lav stands for Kurmis having 2.87% and Kush stands for Kushwaha who are 4.21% in Bihar. Moreover, he has a stronghold among OBC and EBC voters. Lalu Prasad has the Muslims and Yadavs who are 17.7% with the Yadavs at 14%. A sizable vote bank of Scheduled Castes (19%) EBC and OBC also support Lalu Prasad. So, these two are well ahead of the BJP on this count.
In the past, the upper castes who are lower in numbers, dominated over the OBC, EBC and Scheduled Castes who have higher numbers. Lalu Prasad had given voice to the these suppressed castes and turned out to be a leader of social justice. Following that, a number of massacres took place in Bihar especially in Bhojpur, Jahanabad, Gaya and some other districts. Nitish Kumar has also carried the same baton and the pain of untouchability and massacres are in the minds of the upper and lower caste people. They have chosen their political parties in Bihar.
The people of the lower castes know that the BJP is a party of the upper castes and hence they cannot go with it. As a result, the BJP failed to form the government in Bihar on its own. The upper castes do not have enough strength to form the government. The BJP stayed in power in Bihar but with the help of Nitish Kumar.
Nitish Kumar also knew that his individual position would not be good enough to secure power in the state as the Kurmi and Kushwaha are 2.87% and 4.21% respectively and hence he took support of either the BJP or the RJD.
Lalu Prasad emerged as the biggest beneficiary of the caste based survey with his core voters Muslims at 17.7% and Yadavs at 14%.
The political parties more or less knew about the strength of their core voters but the voters themselves did not know until the caste based survey report. Now, they know their actual strength and creating confusion by any particular party will not be possible from now on.
This is probably the reason why, the BJP started the game of Hindus and Muslims in Bihar.
As per the report, Bihar has a population of 13 crore, 7 lakh, 25,000 and 310 with Hindus at 81.9%, Muslims 17.7%, Christians are 0.05%, Sikhs 0.01%, Bodh 0.08%, Jains 0.0096% and other religions at 0.12%.
BJP MLA from Madhubani (Bipsi assembly constituency) Haribhushan Thakur Bachaul demanded that the Nitish Kumar government declare Bihar as a Hindu state with the aim to avoid polarizing voters on the basis of caste and sub castes and that they vote on the basis of religion.
BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda came to Patna on October 4 and held a closed door meeting with the party MPs for 30 minutes.
Sources said that he asked them to go to their constituencies and take feedback from the voters. He also said that if the feedback is positive they should establish good relations with them and if anyone gives negative feedback, try to resolve their grievances.
He also told them to spread awareness about women's reservation, concentrate on the OBC vote bank, target Lalu Prasad but avoid Nitish Kumar and alliance partners. - IANS
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