‘Lower’ caste votes detrimental for third front

Dr. Ejaz Ahmad Rabbani

Patna: The emergence Grand Democratic Secular Front (GDSF) can be spoiler for both the leading coalition groups, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Grand Alliance, in the forthcoming Bihar assembly elections.

The four components of the GDSF including Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Upendra Khushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) and Devendra Prasad Yadav’s Secular Janata Dal (SJD) are in the fray, seek solidarity of the marginalised castes and communities.

‘Opportunity for Muslims’

While Owaisi managed to stich alliance with these parties to end his party’s “political untouchability”, rest of the caste-based political outfits hope to get Muslims into their side in some constituencies. It is, however, immature to predict on whose side Muslim votes will go. But Owaisi sees the alliance beyond Bihar. He is likely to exploit his alliance with the BSP in Utter Pradesh elections where the latter is a major player. In short, he has nothing to lose.

However, Owaisi will have to toil hard to corner Muslims whose loyalty towards Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is still intact. Moreover, the Congress party is seemingly not ‘reluctant’ this time and has fielded Muslim candidates from ‘winnable’ constituencies, doing away with the allegations that the party often fields Muslims from the areas where the latter’s chances of victory remains dim. It is believed if the Muslims vote tactfully, the number of Muslim legislatures in the assembly could go up to 40. At least, Muslim population is above 25 per cent in as many as 40 constituencies.  Muslims account for around 17 per cent of the state’s population. Their presence in Seemanchal region – Kishanganj (68 per cent), Katihar (45 per cent), Araria (43 per cent) and Purnea (38 per cent) is high.

Dalit votes

The BSP, on the other hand, hopes that it can significantly influence the voting pattern if the party managed to get support of Dalits who are nearly 17 per cent. But BSP does not have organisational structure in the state. Besides, Dalits in Bihar are largely with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, Dalits are a bit apprehensive towards growing influence of upper caste. A section of Dalit has awakened and does not want to be patronised. Some political commentators believe that the RJD ground workers have made significant penetration in the Dalit constituencies. The Congress too has reportedly managed to make its goodwill among Dalits. In some pockets, however, Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) could influence Dalit voters.

Kushwaha-Koeri-Kurmi combination

The RLSP has been working hard on ground to consolidate it vote banks. The party did not succeed in Parliamentary elections, but it has worked on ground to rebuild the trust. The Kushwaha-Koeri-Kurmi combination constitutes nearly 12-14 per cent of the population in the state. Interestingly, RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha and chief minister Nitish Kumar belong to the same social. The chief minister is Kurmi but holds little grip on his constituency. He has widely been seen leader above “caste identities”.

As of now, the so-called lower caste votes seem to largely go in favour of the non-NDA parties, but the calculation could alter if the latter trigger “emotive issues” just ahead of polling day.

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