Bihar has had a long standing with caste politics. A simplistic analysis of who won and who lost will not be enough for a state which is known for its political consciousness, which however doesn’t quite translate into betterment of the society.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led National Democratic alliance won 39 seats and one seat went to the Congress, which was a part of the Mahagatbandhan. An analysis of the candidates shows that the upper-caste candidates are back to rule the roost in Bihar. Of the 39 MPs from Bihar, 15 are from upper castes. This gives them 38% representation when their population accounts for only 17%, making it more than double the representation.
This time all the relevant parties were part of two alliances – NDA and Mahagatbandhan. The former constituted of BJP, Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), while the latter is made up of Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM), Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). NDA combine is made up of upper-caste, Other Backward Classes except the Yadavs, Extremely Backward class and Dalits and the Mahagatbandhan is said to represent Yadavs, Kushwahas, non-Paswan Dalits and some upper-castes.
Christophe Jaffrelot and Gilles Verniers wrote in the Indian Express that there has been the erosion of OBC representation – along with the rise of the BJP and the last decade has seen the return of the savarn (upper caste). They had added that “OBCs have got divided along jaati lines, as evident from the association of the Yadavs to the RJD and of the Kurmis to the JD(U) in Bihar”. And this can be seen in the seat allocation.
They write that this trajectory is “due to the rise of theBJP, an upper-caste dominated party that has received the support of thesavarn, precisely to contain the rise of OBCs. The subtext of the “Mandir vs Mandal” moment was spelt out in these terms, as religious mobilisation could defuse caste tensions and make plebeians forget their caste and class”.
Has the BJP and NDA victory come at the cost of the minorities and the backward castes in Bihar? Yes.
The BJP had given the maximum number of its seats to upper castes. The Brahmins form 5.7% of the the population in the state and they should be allocated two seats among 40. The BJP has given only two Brahmins (Gopal ji Thakur and Ashwini Kumar Choubey) tickets.
But, the Rajputs who form only 5.2% of the population should ideally get only 2 seats in the coalition, but have been given 6 seats. Five seats were given by BJP (Radha Mohan Singh, Janardan Singh Sigriwal, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Raj Kumar Singh, Veena Devi) and JD(U) gave to one Rajput (Kavita Singh). The Kayasths are only 1.5% of the population in Bihar, which translates into them either not being given a seat or the maximum being one. However, BJP has given three Kayasths tickets. All of these candidates won.
Upper-caste Bhumihars slowly moved to BJP as all the other parties built their rhetoric against upper castes. And they have been more than adequately represented. Even though they are only 4.7% of the population, their share of seats is double that. they should have got either one or two seats, but have been given three seats – two by BJP and JD(U) one (Chandan Kumar, Giriraj Singh and Rajiv Kumar Singh).
The Extremely Backward Classes and the Muslims are under-represented. Muslims, who form 16.9% of the population have been given only two seats, and none were by BJP. JDU gave one to Mahmood Ashraf in Kishanganj and LJP gave to Mahboob Ali Kaiser.
Only the LJP candidate won. In Kishanganj, the Congress candidate won, the only seat won by the Mahagatbandhan. The Muslims should have been given 7 seats of the 40 seats. The Mahagatbandhan gave seven Muslims tickets.
The Extremely Backward Classes, which should have got 10 seats with their 26% population, got only 6 in the NDA combine (Ram Preet Mandal, Dileshwar Kamnath, Dular Chand Goswami, Ajay Kumar Mandal of JD(U); Ajay Nishad and Susheel Kumar Singh of BJP). JD(U) has given more tickets to EBCs than BJP. In the Mahagatbandhan too, the EBCs were given only five tickets.
The Scheduled Castes which accounts for 15.7% of the population in Bihar, got 7 tickets when they should have got six seats. But, three of these seats have been given by Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP (Ram Chandra Paswan, Pashupati Kumar Paras, Chirag Paswan), four by JD(U) (Sunil Kumar Pintu, Dr Alok Kumar Sumen, Vijay Kumar Manjhi) and only one by BJP (Chedi Paswan). Here too, the Mahagatbandhan gave six candidates tickets.
The Other Backward castes constitute around 14% of the population in the state and this translates into either five or six seats among 40. NDA gave them eight seats, of which four were Yadavs (Ram Kripal Yadav and Ashok Kumar Yadav of BJP; Girdhari Yadav and Dinesh Chandra Yadav of BJP). The others got the remaining four (Baidhyanath Prasad Mahto, Santosh Kumar Kushwaha and Kaushlendra Kumar of JD(U) and Nityanand Rai of BJP).
Often thought of as a party of OBCs, the RJD gave 8 OBCs tickets and of them five were Yadavs. In all the Mahagatbandhan gave 12 tickets to OBCs and it included tickets to three RLSP candidates. CPI(ML) too gave to a Yadav candidate, Raju Yadav.