By Ashraf Shaghil
Patna: As apprehended, political parties of all hues have shown red flags to most of the Muslim aspirants in distribution of ticket amid intense pondering on caste calculation in the first phase of the forthcoming Bihar assembly elections.
In the Bihar’s socio-political set-up, however, caste identities play crucial role. Here it goes with the popular dictum of ‘people don’t cast their vote, but they vote to their castes. Obviously, political parties field candidates keeping numerical strength of caste votes above all.
With the last day of nomination for the 71 seats of the first phase of election ending on Thursday, all political parties have released list of candidates. As expected, all the parties have kept caste arithmetic beyond other considerations. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has banked upon the so-called upper caste votes, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has played bet on its core Other Backward Class (OBC), specially Yadava caste.
The BJP has released the list of 27 candidates, giving 16 seats, nearly 60 per cent, to the members of so-called upper castes. It has given seven tickets to Rajputs, six Bhumihars and three Brahmins. In an attempt to make a dent in the RJD vote-bank, the saffron party has also given three tickets to the members of Yadav community, rest it gave to the so-called lower caste, including three tickets to Scheduled Caste (SC), one to Scheduled Tribal (ST), one to Vaishya, one to Bind, one Dangi, and one Chandravanshi.
Interestingly, the ‘Muslim-friendly parties’, too ignored the vulnerable community. The RJD has given only two seats to the Muslims out of names of 41 candidates it formally announced on Wednesday. The party has fielded 20 candidates from Yadav community, eight from SC, one from ST and three from Extremely Backward Communities (EBC).
On the other hand, the Congress party too has played bet on the upper caste votes. It has announced the names of 21 candidates, giving maximum number of ticket to the members of upper castes. It has given six tickets to Bhumihars, five to Rajputs, two to Brahmins and one to Kayastha candidates. The party is fielding only one Muslim candidate in the first phase of the poll to be held on 27 October.
While social scientists and political commentators have often expressed concerns over the dwindling representation of the Muslim community in the state assemblies and Parliament, political parties present ‘winnability’ argument behind their decision to desist from fielding Muslim candidates. The trend has apparently eschewed away the democratic spirit of our electoral politics. They political scientists believe that poor representation of Muslims is weakening our democracy.