Caste+development=Change

New Delhi, Nov 22 | Updated: Nov 23 2005, 05:30am hrs
After supplementing the Kurmi-Koeri plus upper-caste base with the prized extremely backward castes (EBCs) as well as exploiting chinks in the RJDs Muslim-Yadav armour, Nitish Kumar has steered the JD(U)-BJP combine to a handsome victory in Bihar. His plank of development and good governance, additionally, came in handy to firm up the Bihar voters mind who had already decided on a change.

The early projection of Nitish Kumar as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) chief ministerial candidate also contributed in the landslide victory for the JD(U)-BJP along with the split in the secular votes in the UPA with two fronts led by the RJD and the LJP in the electoral fray.

At one level, the landslide victory under the leadership of Vikas Purush Nitish Kumar may well be a disclaimer to Lalu Prasads loud talk that development is not an issue for the states electorate. However, to say that the NDA victory was a vote for change or development alone would be an oversimplification of the various social dynamics in the state.

In Bihar, where there seems to be a thin line dividing positive empowerment and development, this time around it seems that NDA managed to configure a consolidation of the various social forces, which felt that its aspirations remained unfulfilled under the RJD regime.

This was especially applicable in the context of caste configurations, with a general sense of suspicion towards the Yadavs, who had enjoyed power for the last 15 years. While the upper castes saw Yadavs displacing them as dominant castes, the backward castes felt Lalu had not given them their due.

Although the contest was still seen as a fight between two backward caste leaders as Nitish is a Kurmi and Lalu a Yadav, where NDA seems to have gone one step ahead than Lalu was in successfully wooing the extremely backward caste votes (EBCs), who constitute nearly 35% of the electorate and are asserting their rights this time around.

In the meantime, Lalu stayed static in focussing on the arithmetic of electioneering even failing to consolidate his Muslim-Yadav vote bank in some pockets and clearly oblivious to the fact that in the changing social dynamics of Bihar there has been a generational change since the Mandalisation of politics in the nineties.

Even the Muslim votes seem to have scattered, with JD-U being successful in wooing a small section of upper class Muslims and a chunk of Dalit Muslims by firmly telling the BJP to keep the Hindutva card away.

One thing is evident, Lalu seems to have failed in cashing in on an apparent fear of BJP coming to power as Nitish is being seen as a buffer to BJP with his open dissociation with his allys ideology.

Also, Congress teaming up with RJD does not seem to have paid dividends for the latter in wooing the minority votes.