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Ahead of Bihar polls, BJP in caste balancing act

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Patna: Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for an end to caste-based politics, in Bihar a deep-rooted tussle in the BJP between upper caste and other backward caste (OBC) leaders ahead of assembly polls later this year has put the saffron party in a dilemma.modi1

Perhaps realizing the problem, Modi and party president, Amit Shah are taking steps to ensure that none of these leaders are allowed to dominate the public debate till the polls, fearing it may anger either of the groups, causing a loss to party’s social support base.

“The BJP in Bihar is a divided house. To project a leader from either the OBCs or the upper castes as a chief minister candidate would antagonize the other group. BJP is not in a position to project any one person against Nitish Kumar, who was declared chief ministerial candidate by Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress and National Congress Party (NCP) alliance,” a senior BJP leader who did not want to be named said.

Another BJP leader told IANS, also on condition of anonymity, that the BJP was sure of its traditional base of upper castes remaining intact in Bihar. Its worry was to consolidate backward castes, in view of RJD chief Lalu Prasad joining hands with chief minister Nitish Kumar.

“If BJP projects a backward caste leader as its face for the polls, it is bound to anger upper caste leaders who have been in the forefront of the party in good and bad days,” he said.

In the caste-ridden politics of the state, there are over half a dozen leaders from the upper castes and the backward castes who have staked their claim for being nominated as the chief ministerial candidate. “All of them are lobbying hard,” the BJP leader said.

BJP’s upper caste leaders like C.P. Thakur, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajeev Pratap Rudy and Radha Mohan Singh are the prominent faces in the race for the top post. Similarly, BJP’s backward caste leaders include Sushil Kumar Modi, Prem Kumar and Nand Kishore Yadav.

Thakur, in his early 80s and a Rajya Sabha member, has repeatedly said in the last one month that he will be happy to be a chief ministerial candidate if the party gives this responsibility to him. Thakur belongs to the powerful landed upper caste Bhumihars, who are said to be overwhelmingly backing BJP in post Mandal politics in the state.

Union IT and Telecom Minister Prasad, who is also BJP’s face on television channels, is known for his communication skills and legal expertise. He belongs to the upper caste Kayasth community. There is a saying in the local Hindi dialect that if the BJP is sure of any one support, apart from traders, it is the Kayasths. Prasad is said to be in the good books of Modi and the Rashtria Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the latter for his family background as his father was one of the founders of Jan Sangh in Bihar.

Though Prasad said that he was not in the race for the chief ministerial post unlike Bollywood-actor-turned politician and BJP MP from Patna Shatrughan Sinha, another Kayasth face, leaders in the party say that Sinha was unhappy for not being taken in as part of Modi’s cabinet, is keen to be the chief minister. They say his denial is not credible.

Rudy and Singh are ‘Babusahebs,’ as their powerful Rajput caste is known here. Both are close to union home minister Rajnath Singh and the RSS. Even the name of another vocal Hinduvta champion known for making controversial statements – Griraj Singh, union minister of state for micro, small, and medium enterprise, is also doing the rounds. Singh is a Bhumihar.

Since last year, a powerful group of upper caste leaders in BJP have been opposing projection of former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi as the chief ministerial candidate.

Modi, who is from a backward caste, is the most influential face and commands respect even among upper castes, say some leaders. But Modi’s disadvantage lies in the fact that two BJP leaders from backward castes are also dead set against him.

Former minister and senior BJP leader Prem Kumar has also staked his claim to the chief ministership. He belongs to an extreme backward caste. “BJP should project a leader from an extremely backward castes like him to take on the new combination of the JD-U, the RJD, the Congress and NCP, which were together eyeing support of the weaker sections and the OBCs,” he said.

Another backward caste leader in the fray is Leader of Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav. “His UPS is that he belongs to the caste of RJD chief Lalu Prasad and BJP have to project a leader to eat into the traditional support base of Lalu,” BJP insiders say. Yadav opposes Sushil Modi’s projection as chief ministerial candidate.

In Bihar, all election arithmetic relies on caste. Most parties also lean on backward castes, Dalits, and Muslims. Even the Congress, till its influence began to wane from 1989, aimed to secure support of such a combination.

“In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP applied the trick of wooing backwards though it got 78 percent upper caste votes. That was much higher than the OBC votes,” says socio-political analyst Soroor Ahmad.

Ahmad said the BJP has been relying heavily on the upper castes and had emerged as the only major party in Bihar that claims to safeguard their interests.

With RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, both from powerful agrarian backward castes – Yadav and Kurmi – the stage is set for a major caste battle in the state, though through the ballot box.

(With inputs from IANS)

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What Exactly is Happening Behind The Corridors of Power? Analyzing Elections 2019

Is this what a love-hate relationship is all about? Is there bad news in the mahagathbandhan again?

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democracy
These are small anecdotes, small pieces of a larger jigsaw puzzle and stitching them together allows one to take a glimpse at the larger picture. This time, I thought I would present a bouquet of different stories, which will perhaps allow a reader to get a glimpse of the full picture. Pixabay

Separate, seemingly unconnected pieces, combine to make up an inseparable home.

This is true of our lives, as it is of our political system. Now, as India is consumed by electoral frenzy, and the biggest democratic exercise of the world has begun, the question needs to be asked: What exactly is happening behind the corridors of power? What is happening inside North Block, or South Block? What is happening inside the party offices?

These are small anecdotes, small pieces of a larger jigsaw puzzle and stitching them together allows one to take a glimpse at the larger picture. This time, I thought I would present a bouquet of different stories, which will perhaps allow a reader to get a glimpse of the full picture.

The Narendra Modi government is very upset with Attorney General (AG) K.K. Venugopal. Now 88-years-old, the Centre doesn’t want to change the AG, especially so close to the elections. But the reason for the anger is this: That he told the apex court that the Rafale files had been stolen. This was neither the government’s view, nor the official defence ministry version. His claim was an attempt to counter Prashant Bhushan’s query on the leaked Rafale story. Later, the government clarified through affidavits presented by the defence secretary in the court that the file hadn’t been stolen, but that “one page had been photocopied and leaked”.

If one tells the court that the file had been stolen, then the actual security in place at the defence ministry — the custodians of India’s national security — comes under the scanner. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told in closed circles that if the files were stolen, then she was responsible and would be in trouble. For now the situation is under control, but the murmurs remain: who leaked the file? Another foreign fighter company? An Indian mole? Inside South Block – a spy vs spy drama ensues.

Rahul Gandhi
A few days back, Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi sat together at Sharad Pawar’s house in Delhi. This was only to give the message that they were together. But recently, Rahul Gandhi went to West Bengal and at rally in north Bengal, he once against launched an attack on Didi, claiming that Modi and Banerjee were the same.. wekimediacommons

Dimple Yadav has a new best friend. Of late, she has developed a very comfortable relationship with none other than Priyanka Gandhi. The two meet frequently and are talking to each other daily. The communications on elections continue, whether it has to do with selecting candidates for the campaigns or criticism of the BJP government. While Rahul-Akhilesh remains the primary channel for communication between the two parties, this is a valuable track two for the ‘mahagathbandhan’.

There is no doubt that Modi is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) star campaigner ahead of their 2019 campaign. Amit Shah and BJP leaders, including Arun Jaitley, have finalised the Prime Minister’s campaign strategy. It is clear that from the end of March, all through April and till May, he will hold a number of rallies – expected to cross 200. Every state unit wants him. Modi is fit, possibly healthier than all else in his cabinet. The Prime Minister’s massive medical team has admitted, gladly, that for the past five years they’ve been rendered jobless – he does yoga, exercises daily, eats less and has a diet primarily of salad and soup, wakes up early, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, is a vegetarian.

There is only one problem: He has to maintain the health of his vocal chords. The Prime Minister’s voice, the pitch and tenor might well dictate the future of the BJP. It is not easy, especially with 3-4 rallies, a break in the voice is normal. Gossip in the Prime Minister’s Office is that Modi’s solution comes from an old saint from Varanasi, who has prepared an ayurvedic solution. The prescription: A very simple concoction of tulsi, kali mirch and mishri boiled in water. This concentrated juice will help him, while another solution is mulethi.

The venue: Pakistan High Commission in Delhi. The event was Pakistan Day celebrations on March 23. But, the celebrations were taking place a day earlier. There was major controversy. A massive cordon of the Delhi Police was present. The Hurriyat Conference was a major factor, although no Indian representatives was there. Both American and Chinese diplomats were present.

The Chinese First Secretary (Political), Liu Ziuqin came, dressed gracefully in a salwar suit, while American Deputy Chief of Mission MaryKay L. Carlson was wearing an Indian saree, of which she has a massive collection. But irrespective of the controversy, it was clear that they were all fond of the rich, spicy and delicious Pakistani cuisine. On most occasions, diplomats tend to steer clear of such dishes, sticking to the safety of soups and salads. But during the celebrations, they gorged on biryanis, kormas and kebabs.

The Prime Minister’s mammoth campaign began in earnest after March 25. In the coming election, Modi is the star and only Shah and Jaitley were present, when his campaign strategy was discussed. A plan, spanning approximately 40 days from March 25 to the first week of May.

On an average, the Prime Minister will hold three to four rallies daily in different states. A central rally in a state capital, followed by three more. So, 40 multiplied by four, at least 160 rallies. Potentially, 200 rallies and each state, going to the polls in the seven phases, are desperate to have Modi campaign in their state.

Now it fell on Jaitley to deal with the Herculean task of delving into the demands and deciding the area where the rallies will take place. The main theme of the campaign is Sashakt Bharat — strong nation, with good governance. Most wanted slogans: ‘Namumkin abhi mumkin hain’, ‘Hum sab chowkidar hain’, ‘Modi keu pachta nahi’, ‘Mahamilwat ka halt’, among others.

The Prime Minister might end up going to Bengal, north east and Odisha more often since he is trying to get more seats in the area. Jaitley’s role will be one that he has played during many elections — holding the war room in Delhi and each morning he has been training the spokespersons’ panel. In this, Ravi Shankar Prasad has been aiding.

The combination of the rallies each day is also very important and in order to ensure that all of this is planned to perfection, Jaitley has been coming to the party office every day in the morning. The new party office, as a result, is abuzz with activity — and all the gossip about the vastu not being ideal there has also been proven wrong.

narendra modi

The Prime Minister’s mammoth campaign began in earnest after March 25. In the coming election, Modi is the star and only Shah and Jaitley were present, when his campaign strategy was discussed. A plan, spanning approximately 40 days from March 25 to the first week of May. Pixabay

Is this what a love-hate relationship is all about? Is there bad news in the mahagathbandhan again?

A few days back, Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi sat together at Sharad Pawar’s house in Delhi. This was only to give the message that they were together. But recently, Rahul Gandhi went to West Bengal and at rally in north Bengal, he once against launched an attack on Didi, claiming that Modi and Banerjee were the same.

It is no surprise that Didi was upset and unhappy with Rahul Gandhi’s reaction. She didn’t go for an alliance with the Congress before the election, but with the Congress president’s personal attack on her and naming her, what will she do? Will she also attack Rahul in north Bengal?

To be or not to be? Didi’s question is simple: Senior people in the party and Rahul Gandhi should figure out who is their target in 2019, Modi or Mamata?

Also Read: Regular Intake of Sleeping Pills Can Adversely Effect Blood Pressure

At a time when the BJP headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg in Delhi is abuzz with activity, workers are with teeming all around, meetings are taking place, plans for the campaign are being chalked out, thali after thali is being consumed at the canteen, there is one constant: Jagdish Bhai Bhatiya.

A real estate businessman from Malviya Nagar, he isn’t a politician. But he is much in demand for many who want him to canvass for the party in their areas. The reason: because of how similar he looks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Many senior BJP leaders have already made the mistake, as has the SPG on a few occasions. An ardent fan of Modi, Bhatiya is often found in the party office, eating thalis at the canteen. He has also made an effort to work on his Modi look. He dresses like the Prime Minister and has even got a similar haircut. Every one, as a result, wants him in their constituency. In spite of not taking a single penny, Bhatiya is more than happy is his role.  (IANS)