The Telegraph
Wednesday , May 28 , 2014
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Caste posers for minimalist Modi

- Demand for social balance in ministry

Patna, May 27: Narendra Modi’s minimalist government has struck a note of discord in Bihar’s caste-drive polity with questions being raised about the absence of certain sections of the socio-economic structure in the new ministry.

Bihar has five ministers in the council — on a par with Maharashtra and three fewer than Uttar Pradesh, which has elected 73 MPs from the NDA. But a section of Bihar leaders still hold the view that “caste compulsions” cannot be ignored in the formation of ministries even at the Centre.

Some state BJP leaders argued that caste arithmetic played an important role in the Lok Sabha polls that was ruled by the Modi wave. “That is why we brought in Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha to our side before the elections. Bihar is still a caste-centric state where castemen look to one of their own being picked as minister. It runs on symbolism. Nitish Kumar chose Jitan Ram Manjhi as his successor because he wants to play the Mahadalit card,” said a BJP leader, who did not wish to be named.

What some politicians from the Congress and JD(U) are particularly miffed about is the exclusion of the Bramarshi Samaj — Bhumihars, who extended strong support to the NDA candidates in the elections.

Some BJP leaders countered that the junior railways minister, Manoj Sinha, an MP from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh, is a Bhumihar and his in-laws stay in Bihar.

BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi also contended that the BJP had given representation to all sections of the society. “For five years during UPA-2, Bihar had no presence at the Centre. The Modi government has five Union ministers from the state,” he said.

Among the five Bihar representatives, Rajya Sabha MP Dharmendra Pradhan has his roots in Odisha. Ravi Shankar Prasad is a Kayastha, a caste that has backed the BJP for over two decades. Radha Mohan Singh is a Rajput.

Rashtriya Lok Samata Party’s Kushwaha and Lok Janshakti Party’s Paswan — the two allies of the BJP — are in the ministry because they succeeded in swinging the Kushwahas and Paswans in favour of the NDA.

Yet, a section of the BJP leaders expressed concern over the non-representation of EBCs and Brahmins in the central ministry. The two sections are also believed to have backed the NDA candidates.

There is also a feeling that Ram Kripal Yadav, who had switched over from the RJD to the BJP before the polls, should have been adjusted in the ministry because he had succeeded in making erosion in Lalu Prasad’s core vote — the Yadavs — in Pataliputra where he defeated the RJD’s chief’s daughter, Misa Bharti. “His inclusion in the ministry would have sent a strong message to the Yadavs — a caste we have been desperately trying to woo away from Lalu,” said a senior BJP leader.

Lalu failed to ensure the victory of wife Rabri Devi and daughter because the NDA managed to make inroads in core votes of both the RJD and the JD(U).

High-profile leaders such as Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Prabhunath Singh and Jagdanand Singh also lost because of the same reason.

A section of the BJP feels that the Modi wave would ebb in Bihar after a while and the party should get its caste combination right before the Assembly polls. Modi’s partyman C.P. Thakur said: “The imbalance will be removed when the expansion of the ministry takes place.”

To drill home his point, Thakur, the national vice-president of the BJP, cited the remark of Union finance Arun Jaitley that he would hold the defence portfolio only till the expansion of the council.