Jan Akanksha Rally: Bihar witnesses a new social coalition, coming together of unlikely castes

Though Congress and RJD together contested elections in the past, rarely was such bonhomie been seen between the rank and file of the two parties as was evident on Sunday at the iconic Gandhi Maidan

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Soroor Ahmed

Post-February 3 rally of the Congress Party in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan––the first such exercise in the last almost three decades––Bihar is likely to witness a new type of social alliance. Till recently analysts have been talking only about the political alliance, which led to the coming together of Congress, RJD and a couple of other parties.

But unlike in Uttar Pradesh, in Bihar the upper castes, prominent backward castes, Dalits and Muslims are coming under one umbrella of Grand Alliance.

Apart from exposing the failure of the Narendra Modi government the Congress President Rahul Gandhi, while addressing the rally, gave enough emphasis on this social-cum-political unity in Bihar. He minced no words to declare that in Bihar the battle for the ouster of the Modi government and subsequently Nitish Kumar would be fought under the leadership of Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and appeal to all the constituents of the Grand Alliance as well as the state unit of his own party to display complete unison. Not only Rahul, but all the Grand Alliance leaders and three newly elected chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh called for the need of the unity.

Though the Congress and the RJD have unitedly fought elections in the past yet never has such bonhomie been witnessed among the rank and file of the two parties, who come from two opposite social bases. This departure from the past is something which is likely to cause discomfort in the National Democratic Alliance camp.

True the rally attracted people from across the castes and connunities there is no denying the fact that till recently the RJD was called as a party of OBCs, especially Yadavs, and Congress of a handful of upper caste leaders.

However, after over 28 years of the implementation of Mandal Commission report the bitterness between Yadavs and Bhumihars ––or for that matter Brahmins, Rajputs and Kayasthas––has, to much extent, dissipated. Tejashwi, after all, does not evoke any such revulsion among the upper castes.

If a sizeable section of upper castes really jumps off the Narendra Modi bandwagon than it would pose a big challenge to the NDA,which has till recently been a bit confident in Bihar.

When Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United and Bharatiya Janata Party jointly came to power in the state in 2005 a prominent Bihar watcher coined an expression “coalition of extremes”. This was largely because Nitish not only successfully managed to weave an alliance of OBCs––minus Yadav––and upper castes but also brought Socialists, former Communists and hardline followers of Hindutva under an umbrella.

More than 13 years later Bihar is likely to witness another kind of “coalition of extremes”.

The rally has certainly electrified the war-machine of the Congress in the state, where it used to be taken lightly by most political observers.

But the December 11 victory of the party in three states have changed the whole scenario..

What is worth noting is that this rally was entirely organized by the Congress––and not by the Grand Alliance. In that way the turnout was massive. Never since the party was voted out of power on March 10, 1990 it has managed to bring such a large number of people for any rally in Patna. It was only once in mid-1990s that the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao addressed a public meeting at this very venue––Gandhi Maidan. But that was not a rally, just a sort of election meeting.

The party on February 3 successfully passed the litmus test as it was in Bihar that it was completely decimated after the advent of Lalu Prasad and latter the emergence of the NDA. In no Hindi heartland state the party has been in such a shambles.

Even in Uttar Pradesh the Grand Old Party managd to win 10 Lok Sabha seats in post Kargil Lok Sabha election in 1999 and 21 in 2009.

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