Caste equations compel Nitish to quit alliance

Caste equations compel Nitish to quit alliance

The end: Bihar chief minister keen on constituting social base which includes Muslims

Caste equations compel Nitish to quit alliance

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s political gamble of quitting the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is largely inspired by the changing social equations in Bihar.

The social alliance which he had forged against Lalu Prasad Yadav is fast disintegrating. He is now on the lookout for a new social base in which Muslims are an important constituent.

In Bihar, where elections have been fought on caste lines, Nitish could be credited with bringing a change where the agenda of development played an important role in the last Assembly elections.

It soon became very clear to Kumar that the social alliance he made was flawed and he could not depend on it for long. Despite the upper caste endorsing his development agenda, politically active castes such as the Bhumihars were not happy with their share of power. Caste leaders were up in arms for getting less than what they had expected.

Another upper caste, the Rajputs, to some extent, also continued to support Lalu. The Brahmins generally support the BJP. Dissatisfied Bhumihars are also sympathetic towards the latter.

On the other backward classes (OBC) front, too, Kumar has been facing the same problem. Kushwahas, who have been allying with Kurmis, the caste which Kumar belongs to, have gone against him.

Their leader Upendra Kushwaha has formed a new political formation and is ready to join the BJP or the Congress, depending on who assures him support in opposing Kumar. 

The Dhanuks, lower rung of the Kurmis, have also gone against him under the leadership of Magni Lal Mandal, a Lok Sabha MP of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), and who is facing action under the anti-defection law.

 He is likely to join Lalu’s RJD. To counter changing social equations, Kumar has worked out a strategy to mobilise Maha-Dalits (less developed Scheduled Castes) that include a big population. They have been given special facilities and preferences.

Similarly, he has mobilised the most backward among the OBCs, the MBCs. Around 80 castes belong to this category and 35 of them are Muslims. In this scenario, Kumar finds it extremely important to have 16 per cent of the Muslim votes on his side. He was preparing the ground by promoting the cause of Pasmanda Muslims (backward muslims). Ali Anwar, a senior JD-U MP leads the movement.

But, this did not seem enough and Kumar found a target in Narendra Modi. Attacking the Gujarat chief minister will give Nitish the much required credential of being secular, which he has been losing owing to his alliance with the BJP.

However, Maharahganj elections was the turning point. It showed the slipping of upper castes votes towards Lalu and also his hold over the Muslim votes. Nitish could not afford to wait any longer.