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Ram in BJP’s backward caste bogey

New Delhi, March 11: Ram Kripal Yadav is set to embrace the BJP, providing potent tool in the hands of the saffron party to break into the backward castes bogey in the heartland, after spending two decades as Lalu Prasad’s lieutenant safeguarding social justice and secularism.

Ram Kripal is all set to formally join the BJP on Wednesday and become the latest entrant among a host of backward castes and Dalit leaders to join the fiercely upper caste-dominated party, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

He is likely to be pitted against Lalu’s daughter Misa Bharati from the Patliputra Lok Sabha seat. If he manages to defeat Misa from the Yadav-dominated constituency then it would send a big message, not only for his former party boss but also for the socialist brand of politicians whose politics hinges on the backward castes support.

The BJP has managed to break away more than a couple of leaders from Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, the tallest OBC leaders. Names like Upendra Kushwaha, Om Prakash Yadav, Nawal Kishore Yadav and now a lady from Nitish Kumar’s cabinet, Renu Kushwaha.

These leaders do not enjoy a pan-Bihar influence but serve as powerful symbols for the BJP to dent into the vote banks of Lalu and Nitish. Along with these OBC leaders, the BJP has also managed to rope in Dalit leaders Ram Vilas Paswan and Udit Raj, striving to complete the social engineering process.

For decades now, the BJP in the heartland has projected backward caste faces such as Sushil Kumar Modi in Bihar, Kalyan Singh in UP, Uma Bharti followed by Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh and Narendra Modi in Gujarat.

Despite such faces in its armoury, the saffron party has never been able to shed the image of being controlled by what is popularly known as “brahminical” leaders and the RSS at the top.

In Bihar, the BJP pitch-forked Nitish Kumar to showcase its pro-backwards face but was still known to be protecting the interests of the upper castes in the government. Now, after the divorce with Nitish, the party appears to be in overdrive to breakaway backward leaders.

For the BJP, in a make-or-break race to wrest power in Delhi, the welcoming of these leaders could be driven by the compulsion to widen the party’s support base, and most importantly, to enlarge the acceptability of “divisive” Narendra Modi.

The party appears to have realised that it cannot break the barrier and reach closer to the 272-mark in the Lok Sabha without the support of the backward and Dalit sections.