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Makhdumpur: Road that cuts through, divides politics of caste

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Makhdumpur: It is just a road which divides the residents of Makhdumpur assembly constituency of Maoist effected Jahanabad district. On one side voters openly favour the BJP-led NDA while on the other side, the support is largely for the grand alliance.

NH-83, which comes from Patna via Masaurhi, goes directly to Gaya through Makhdumpur and runs almost parallel to the railway line. The road that divides came about because of historical settlements.

One side is dominated by Bhumihar, Manjhi and Kushwaha community while the other has a majority of Yadava Koiry, Paswan and Ravidas castes among others.

In Bihar, Makhdumpur is still a study in the caste divide that has been evident for long, despite voting on developmental lines in many places.

NDA has fielded Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) president and former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi (69), who is also fighting from Imamganj assembly constituency of the adjoining Gaya district.

The grand alliance has fielded RJD’s Subedar Das (50) of Raidas community. A total of 13 candidates are in the fray including six Paswan’s from different political parties and some independents.

Makhdumpur will vote on October 16 in the second phase of the election.

In Indrapuri village, a group of people were playing cards outside a temple wearing white boat-shaped cap of HAM on their heads.

“All the villages of this side are with NDA. In fact we are supporting Modi ji and will vote for Manjhi,” Sachidanand Sharma told IANS.

“Manjhi has done not much work in the area, but when he was the chief minister at least the roads were constructed and power supply conditions improved,” he added.

Others in the group also vow their support to Modi.

“We are still facing problems in irrigation. The Surhanda dam is being constructed since last three years but still not functional. The construction work was initiated by JD-U government when Vijay Chowdhry was the irrigation minister. We would have voted Nitish Kumar but the scenario changed when he joined hands with Lalu Prasad,” says Mahesh Sharma.

“Abri bhar Manjhi ko vote dekar jitana hai (this time we will vote for Manjhi and make him the winner),” he added.

On the other side of the road, Yadavs overwhelmingly support Lalu Yadav.

Subhash Yadav of Lalabigaha, a Yadav dominated village, said: “whatever development has been done is only visible on the other side of the road. We are being neglected. So we will support Laluji.”

His contention is that “It was Lalu ji who gave voice to us. Subedar Das is a poor boy who is working hard in the area since long. Even Paswans of the area will vote for him,” he added.

Yet, in some villages such as Makarpur, Prabhatnagar and Veera people are more circumspect.

“We have not yet decided whom to support in this election. In the last assembly polls, the Koiry’s and Kushwaha’s supported Nitish Kumar. This time there will be division of votes. Let’s see what happens,” Deepak Mahato, who sells vegetables in Makhdumpur Bazar said.

Manjhi has his own supporters too.

“Manjhiji has assured us Indira Awaas, toilets and community centre. Hope when he wins we will be benefited,” Digan Manjhi, Ranjan Manjhi and Pintu Manjhi said in almost overlapping voices at Khalkochak village of 984 Manjhi voters.

Muslims in the area are also in sizeable numbers.

“If Muslims and Yadav’s vote together in favour of Das, and if he succeeds to get even 25 percent of the Koiry votes, Manjhi will be in trouble,” said a local shopkeeper Ramprasad Sah at Makhdumpur Chowk.

“Even Paswan voters are divided as there are six Paswan candidates in the fray including BSP’s Mrityunjay Paswan,” he added.

Manjhi won the last assembly election from Makhdumpur on JD-U ticket by defeating RJD’s Dharmraj Paswan with a margin of 5085 votes. Not really a decisive number.

(Brajendra Nath Singh, IANS)

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Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Intact

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient

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Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.
Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.

By Sagarneel Sinha

There have been lots of discussions among the political circles that JDU led by Bihar Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar is upset with the BJP and trying to send signals to erst allies — RJD and the Congress. This led to speculations that Nitish may once again join the Grand Alliance (GA) leaving the NDA camp. Already, RJD’s new commander Tejasvi Yadav has clearly stated that Nitish led JDU will not be welcomed in the GA. Despite all the odds, if (suppose) GA partners accommodate Nitish, he wouldn’t be the driving force of the alliance as in 2015. Also, Nitish cannot afford to go alone like in 2014 when his party fetched only 2 seats!

Then which is the correct way for JDU? It is to go with the BJP in the upcoming 2019 polls.
JDU’s advantage in this case is the present situation of the BJP. Currently, the saffron party is not in a strong position as the party would be facing anti-incumbency from a strong RJD led alliance in the state. BJP’s traditional voters are the upper castes who account for 17% of the electorate. This votebank is not enough for the party to help to win elections. The main opposition party — RJD still commands over a larger votebank than BJP. RJD is still a dominant force among the Yadavs and the Muslims who account for 31% of the population. It means BJP has to minus the 31% votes and rely on the rest — 69%. Out of these, 16% are the Mahadalits — a large portion of whom generally hail Nitish Kumar as their leader. Also, there are Kurmis, an OBC group consisting of 4% votes — considered as the supporters of JDU. Nitish Kumar himself is also a Kurmi.

Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar
Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar.

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient. However, if these votebanks are joined together they form around 31-32%. Plus, to gain the extra votes, both the parties have the option to rely on the personal charisma of Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, there is a power tussle between the two allies to get a respectable share of seats.

This power tussle is because of a strong BJP which earlier used to be a junior ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections changed the political scenario of the state where BJP emerged as the largest party in terms of vote share and seats. JDU knows the reality of a new emerging BJP, though it is pushing hard to gain a respectable share of seats for the Lok Sabha elections. Instead, Nitish Kumar has another option — giving the bigger chunk to the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections and the latter playing the junior partner for the 2020 assembly elections if held timely. Given the current situation in the country, in a crucial state like Bihar, BJP can hardly reject JDU as the later still commands over 15-16% votes — a very crucial votebank for winning maximum seats in the 2019 polls. Importance of JDU can also be explained by BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Patna to have breakfast and dinner with Nitish Kumar. Though in politics there are no permanent friends or foes, so any perfect prediction is impossible. But given the current situation, JDU and BJP parting their ways seems unlikely as both the parties are in need of each other as already highlighted by Amit Shah that the two allies would fight the Lok Sabha elections together. Smiling face of Nitish Kumar was also an indication that the meetings with Amit Shah were fine.