EBCs to tilt Bihar poll balance

Caste calculations: Those ignored by OBCs could be kingmakers

EBCs to tilt Bihar poll balance

Anuj Choudhary, 35, has made up his mind on whom to vote for this time.
In April last year, he had voted for the BJP candidate during the Lok Sabha elections. Eighteen months down the line, he regrets it.

“Galti hua pichle saal (I made a mistake last year). Modi made only false promises in 2014. The country is facing drought, price rise (of pulses, onions) is beyond control. Aur Modi ko videsh mein photo khinchwane se fursat nahi hai (And Modi is busy getting himself photographed on foreign soil),” laments the betel shop on NH-30, which connects Sandesh in Bhojpur with Buxar.

Choudhary has no qualms admitting he belongs to an extremely backward class (EBC). He is also frank enough to make his vote preference public. But not everyone from the Pachpania Samaj (55 castes and sub-castes together under EBCs are called Pachpania) are as open.

Mostly pressured by upper castes or even by dominant OBCs like Yadavs and Kurmis, the EBCs are unwilling to say who — the NDA or the Nitish-led alliance — they will root for.
“When the time comes, we will sit and decide whom to back. Jidhar sab dega, udhar hum log bhi denge. (We will vote for whom the entire village backs),” said Basudeo Shah, an EBC member from Barhara.

The EBCs are the weakest among the OBCs, and constitute nearly 35 per cent of the electorate. Numerically, they are strong enough to tilt the balance any time. This is precisely why BJP mandarins are working overtime to find out which way the EBCs will vote.

“As the poll dates draw closer, it is crystal clear that the upper-caste and BJP-cadre votes, coupled with the Manjhis', Kushwahas' and Paswans' will go to the NDA. Similarly, 17 per cent Muslims and 14 per cent Yadavs will mostly vote en bloc for Nitish’s alliance. But EBCs have kept us guessing, keeping their cards close to their chest,” a senior BJP member of the key team drawing up party strategies told Deccan Herald.

BJP’s worry
The BJP’s concern is all the more palpable because reports from the interiors say the EBCs feel indebted to Nitish for several welfare schemes. One of them is the cycle scheme, under which the EBCs could persuade their daughters to pursue studies.

“We get Rs 2,500 for a cycle, Rs 1,000 for school uniform and Rs 1,800 as scholarship,” Sita Chowrasia, an EBC girl from Rajpur (near the Dumraon-Mohania border) told Deccan Herald. The Class IX student said if she passes her matriculation examination with first division, she will get Rs 10,000 as incentive from the Bihar government.

Asked to choose between Nitish and Modi, she said, “Obviously Nitish Ji. Our family will vote for him.” Her schoolmates from Raghunath Vidyalaya echoed her point her view.
This cannot be music to the BJP’s ears.

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