The Telegraph
Saturday , March 1 , 2014
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Modi on lips, eye on caste reality

- BJP bows to realpolitik in aligning with Paswan

Patna, Feb. 28: The BJP knows that a Narendra Modi wave is not enough, it needs to get its caste arithmetic right when it comes to winning seats in Bihar.

It therefore spent the past two months striving to get its caste arithmetic right. It first allied with the RLSP — a relatively new outfit formed by dissident JD(U) leaders led by Upendra Kushwaha, who claims to hold sway over the Kushwahas, who constitute around 6 per cent of voters and are the second largest block in the OBC. “By allying with the LJP, we have gained at least 5 per cent votes in Bihar. It is a game changer,” remarked leader of the opposition in the Assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav.

Paswans, commonly called Dussadhs, constitute 6 per cent of voters and are one among 21 Dalit sects that Nitish Kumar angered by not clubbing under “Mahadalits”.

As a result, the Paswans got isolated while other Dalit sects were offered radios, land and other preferential treatment that Mahadalits are entitled to. The Mahadalits constitute 12 per cent of voters and are solidly behind Nitish Kumar.

LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan has expressed his frustration over Paswans being isolated. “In one stroke, Nitish Kumar has moved Paswans to the upper caste level,” he remarked. The BJP was eyeing this angry section and the alliance with the LJP helps. The seven seats the party gave to the LJP were contested by the JD(U) when the BJP had an alliance with it.

Three of the seats — Hajipur, Samastipur and Jamui — are reserved seats. Hajipur is an old Ram Vilas Paswan citadel. He had twice set world record-winning victory margins there. Though he also lost there twice, including in 2009, the high concentration of Paswans and upper caste backing this time, could see him sail through.

Samastipur has a large concentration of Paswans and Kushwahas.

The BJP has conceded the seat as it had a weak presence in the area and hopes that a combination of upper castes, Paswans and Kushwahas along with the traditional BJP votes could see the LJP candidate through. Jamui, from where Chirag Paswan is likely to be fielded, does not have a large concentration of Paswans. But it has a strong BJP backing — presence of Rajputs and other upper castes.

Khagaria has a strong presence of Kushwahas and is the home district of Ram Vilas Paswan. His brother Pashupati Kumar Paras had represented Aulauli assembly segment there for a long time but was defeated in the 2010 Assembly polls. Munger was a seat the BJP was keen to contest itself. “But in an alliance you have to concede some seats,” said a senior BJP leader.