Bihar polls: Jobs for unemployed youth emerging as major agenda, not caste equation

This time the caste factor has been replaced by development and the growth. This change in dynamics of discussion primarily owes to the presence of the labourers and daily wage earners in the villages

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: PTI)

Arun Srivastava/IPA

In the electoral political history of Bihar, this is for the first time the manifestos or “Sankalp Patra” of political parties have emerged as the most favourite issues for political discourses. The discussion is not confined to the living rooms of the rich or middle class, these have succeeded in attracting the attention of the villagers.

The most talked about agenda has been the promise of the BJP to provide 19 lakh jobs. After RJD Leader Tejashwi Yadav promised to provide 10 lakh jobs in the state in the very first Cabinet meet, the BJP promptly came out with the assurance to simply counter him. BJP’s undertaking came out just the day after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar questioned the RJD head and the CM candidate of the opposition alliance Tejashwi Yadav about his promise to provide 10 lakh jobs saying how he could possibly raise the money to pay for 10 lakh jobs.

Usually ahead of the elections, the political discussions revolve around the caste equations and formation of new political equations. In rural Bihar the scene is usually more arithmetical in nature. The villagers in their leisure time discuss about which ghetto is going to vote for whom. Usually their calculations prove to be correct. Being at the ground level they know the issues and also the local personalities who will prove to be decisive factors.

But this time the caste factor has been replaced by the development and the growth. This change in dynamics of discussion primarily owes to the presence of the labourers and daily wage earners in the villages. The miseries they had to suffer while fleeing cities and downs have made them conscious of their social role.

If the local people are to be believed, coming together of RJD and the left forces has completely changed the political dimension. The RJD has Yadav caste base. But the fact is 60 per cent of the Yadavs are poor, having weak purchasing power. In the case of the left, especially the CPI(ML), the labourers and proletariats are their base. Obviously in their case they do not have to put much effort to build or shape a caste based politics. In recent times the Congress has also acquired the image of being sympathetic to the cause of poor.

But the case is not the same with the BJP and NDA. The upper caste support base of BJP views Nitish Kumar and his support base with suspicion. The upper caste has been supporting Nitish due to the BJP factor. In this election the political scenario has changed. The rebellion by Chirag Paswan has turned the upper caste people sceptical of the moves of Nitish.

The scepticism that BJP eventually may rally behind Chirag for forming the government has created more uncertainty in the NDA. The BJP leadership nurses the view that the party would not lose much in the existing scenario. The worst sufferer would be Nitish. Otherwise too the election battle is being projected as a direct fight between the grand alliance and Nitish Kumar.

Though Tejashwi is attracting massive crowd and response, it at some level reflects the disenchantment of the people with Nitish. It is not going to affect the BJP to that extent as is expected. In certain areas the upper caste voters may shift their loyalties to the Congress. Obviously in this background caste permutation and combination has got wider implication for the NDA. The grand alliance is working on the plan to reach out to the people and ensure that they cast their votes.

The electorates have made up their mind was also clearly manifest in peoples’ response to Friday’s meeting of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Modi who was accompanied by Nitish could not make much impact. He was even guarded in defending Nitish, who has already been under severe criticism. Since Bihar sends huge youths to the army, Modi raised the issue of China’s presence in Ladakh. But he failed to evoke a response he usually manages to receive. On the contrary, Rahul’s jibes on Modi for allowing China to occupy Indian territory received tumultuous response.

Addressing a rally in Dehri-on Sone (Sasaram), Modi tried to raise the issue of rule of jungle raj but it could not enthuse the people to respond in a positive manner. He urged the people not to allow the return of the people who have a history of making Bihar ‘Bimaru’. “The people who once ruled Bihar are again looking at the developing state with their greedy eyes. But, Bihar must not forget who pushed them backward, that was the time when there was worsening law and order situation and corruption in the state.” Even the BJP leaders confess that the people looked at his suggestion in the backdrop of Nitish’s rule. ‘BIMARU’ is an acronym for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, which was first used to refer to their poor economic conditions.

The retired military personnel from the state are also quite angry with the BJP vigilantes who have unleashed misinformation and hatred on social media about non-existent “Muslim Regiment”. Military has Bihar Regiment. These people allege that while Modi has been praising the Army, some people are indulging in dirty game to malign it. Through a tweet from the handle @120croreHindus-World Hindus United it was alleged that “in 1965 there was a regiment in Indian Army called Muslim Regiment which refused to fight against Pakistan after which it was dismantled”. The local ex-armymen allege that this was being done on the eve of election to show that Muslim soldiers had their loyalties to Pakistan rather than India.

They demanded stern action against the mischief makers and also banning the social media from carrying such dirty and insidious campaign.

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