In Bihar upper castes, senior leaders fume over BJP's strategy

Mar 28, 2014 Posted In F.POLITICS

Patna:The caste engineering formula of the BJP seems to be backfiring on it in Bihar. In a major change of strategy this time, the party reached out to the vast community of backward voters, creating a grand social coalition.

The purpose was to shed the Brahmin-Baniya identity of the party and gain acceptability among the communities hitherto left out of the party's scheme of things. It even made use of the caste ofNarendra Modi, the party's prime ministerial candidate, to reach out to different sections of the voters.

The eagerness to win the support of the politically significant backward community was apparent when Modi at one of his recent rallies held at Muzaffarpur on 3 March. Modi claimed everyone was stumped when the BJP, which is generally known as a party of 'Baniya' (businessmen) and 'Brahmins' declared someone from the backward class as its PM candidate.

He went on to add that in the coming decades, the party will focus on the backward communities, Dalits, oppressed and downtrodden classes. The message was clear—the BJP wanted to get the solid backing of the backward communities to make a clean sweep in Bihar now that it already enjoys the blessings of the upper class people.

The strategy seems to have delivered in terms of new allies. But in the bargain, the BJP appears to have left the powerful upper castes, its core vote base, angry and disturbed. The anger has intensified after the distribution of tickets. The upper caste leaders, who once enjoyed a privileged position in the party, have now started revolting against the party leadership after finding that they have been sidelined in the ticket distribution.

"The party is not going to benefit by the new strategy as the angry upper caste voters, already dejected with Nitish Kumar, will now possibly vote for the Congress alliance in protest. There are already too many claimants for the backward votes, including Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar," prominent social scientist Sachindra Narayan said.

"It’s strange to see the BJP taking no care of its core support base and going for experiment at this crucial moment. This is surely not the time for experiments…the BJP is badly spoiling its winning chances," Narayan said.

He is not entirely wrong. Many upper caste leaders, such as Giriraj Singh, Ashwini Choube - former ministers who were the first to endorse the content_image of Modi for the PM post - Ramadhar Singh, Suresh Sharma, Chandra Mohan Rai, Usha Vidyarthi and many others are said to be displeased over the marginalisation of upper caste leaders in the party. None of these fuming leaders has been given tickets except for Giriraj Singh. Although Singh was given ticket, his constituency has been changed.

Singh wanted to contest from central Bihar’s Begusarai seat but was fielded from southern Bihar’s Nawada seat. He pleaded hard with the top leadership to change his constituency but his appeal cut no ice.

"There is a bigger conspiracy against me. I will expose these leaders soon," Singh told the media.

Many of these leaders wanted to try their luck in the general elections as the momentum favoured the BJP. For the first time in many years, the party had the opportunity to put up its candidates in all 40 LS seats. These leaders had already started grooming their respective constituencies and invested considerable effort in it. All of a sudden they are out in the cold.The party, in its new-found zeal to broaden its social base, has given preference to outsiders, party hoppers and turncoats.

First, the BJP had to leave alone 10 Lok Sabha seats after it chose to enter a electoral understanding with the parties of Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan and backward leader Upendra Kushwaha, leaving the party content with only 30 seats. The party leaders were still hopeful of getting the chance but the first list shattered their hopes further as the party lost another nine seats to outsiders, leaving barely 21 seats for its own leaders.

Of the 25 candidates figuring on the first list of the party, nine are outsiders— four of them such who joined the BJP barely few days back and were highly critical of Modi and the BJP, such as Ram Kripal Yadav, Sushil Kumar Singh, Ajay Nishad and Chhedi Paswan.

"The BJP will pay the price for ignoring its old, loyal and committed workers. The party liberally gave seats to others without taking into considerations the existing caste and social equations of the constituencies and claims of its own leaders," former health minister Ashwini Choube said.

Observers say the entire mess could be due to Bihar’s puzzling caste equations and hence BJP strategists have used various tricks to rope in various caste groups other than its traditional voters. The amount of attention the BJP leadership has given to Bihar is evident from the fact that first they effected a defection in the UPA camp and got the LJP on board.

Then it went all out to woo a number of leaders, such as Upendra Kushwaha, Vijay Kumar Kushwaha (husband of industry minister Renu Kushwaha who resigned from Nitish Kumar cabinet earlier this week), Ram Kripal Yadav and Nawal Kishore Yadav and other backward community leaders.

"The BJP is looking very much confused at this point. It’s not confident, or why else would it give tickets to the so-called caste leaders and outsiders at the cost of its own leaders who themselves were good enough to turn the tide in the party’s favour?" a political expert said.

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