Lalu's conviction may rejig caste equations

The court verdict against Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam case has opened up prospects of a new social alliance in Bihar.

The situation which is likely to unfold in the absence of direct participation of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader from the electoral process may initiate reassembling of caste equations for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. 

Though it is still a taboo in political discourse to directly talk of caste, communities and the equations they form, informal discussions are largely centred on them.
In the national capital, political leaders across parties, and with any stake in Bihar, immediately started pondering over the caste equations that might emerge following the imprisonment of its former chief minister.

The larger picture is that there would be an attempt to reassemble the caste forces. The equation of Muslims and Yadavs — the equation Lalu had formed two decade ago and led with all firmness — may face erosion.

Muslims, who constitute roughly 16-17 per cent of the vote bank, have solidly been rallying with the Yadavs, with 14 per cent votes. The combination remained a winning one till the RJD leader was able to gather votes from other castes, including the upper castes — mainly Rajputs.

Of late, he had also lost support of some sections of his own Yadav community, who voted for the JD-U and BJP leaders from their community in the last election. Counting on the possibility of a split in the Muslim-Yadav alliance, both the BJP and JD-U leaders have been predicting the demise of the RJD as a political force. However, they have different reasons for this. While the BJP hopes for a shift in Yadav votes, JD-U thinks it would win a sizeable portion of Muslim vote. 

However, there is no unanimity among JD-U leaders over the fallout of Lalu's conviction.

“It would be premature to say that he is finished. There is a possibility that Yadav votes would consolidate in sympathy and go to the RJD. It is also likely that Muslims would like to continue this social alliance as it is a tested one. If this alliance is intact and attracts few upper caste and MBC votes, it would survive because it has the support of Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, which commands 4-5 per cent of Dalit votes,” said a JD-U leader.

However, he was not able to explain who among the RJD leaders would keep this social alliance intact in Lalu's absence.

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