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Upper castes, Pappu Yadav: Decisive factors in Bihar poll?

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Rajesh Ranjan "Pappu Yadav" at his house in New Delhi on 04/05/2009. A special CBI court convicted Pappu Yadav in the Ajit Sarkar murder case. Photo by Shailendra Pandey/Tehelka

Upper caste voters and the Jana Adhikar Party of Pappu Yadav may significantly influence results of the coming Bihar assembly elections. While the JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine has been leaving no stone unturned to give the electoral battle a forward versus backward caste character, recent voting patterns, however, indicate that the BJP-led NDA enjoys an advantage on this count too.

Contrary to the calculations of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and one of his predecessors, Lalu Prasad Yadav, upper castes constituting 14-15 percent of the total voters may turn out to be important factors given their monolithic pattern of voting as shown in the April-May 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the by-elections later on. In the parliamentary poll 78 percent of upper caste voters had cast in favour of the NDA, the highest in the overall voting pattern by any social group.

Various opinion surveys are pointing out that this time too, the trend is likely to remain the same although there are murmurs of discontent among the upper castes against the Narendra Modi government’s failure to increase the minimum support price of agricultural commodities and the prime minister’s attempt to amend the land acquisition act. In addition to the upper caste voters, the Vaishyas, constituting about six percent of the electorate, are likely to remain on the NDA’s side.

Contrary to this picture, the Yadavs, constituting about 14 percent of the electorate, are now a divided lot. During the 2014 parliamentary election also, the Yadav votes got fragmented and a significant section had voted for the BJP. But this time, the scenario has become more complicated for Lalu Prasad Yadav as the popularity graph of Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, a former RJD stalwart and now the leader of the Jana Adhikar Party, is showing continuous signs of increase.

Pappu’s outfit is now an important constituent of the Third Front led by the Samajwadi Party and he draws his strength mostly from the younger sections of Yadav voters. Although much of the national-level media has described him as a ‘vote katwa’ (spoiler), Papuu may show unexpected results in the Kosi belt comprising the districts of Supaul, Madhepura and Saharsha and in the neighbouring Muslim dominated Seemanchal region comprising the districts of Araria, Purnea, Katihar and Kishengunj.

Together, these two regions have 37 assembly seats. As the NDA is weak in this region the JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine could hope to consolidate its tally from here had it not been for Pappu’s presence. In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the BJP could not open its account in the seven seats of these two regions. The Kosi belt has 13 assembly seats. Of them the BJP has only one – Saharsha.

These are the two areas both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav were targeting, given the latter’s famous formula of Muslim-Yadav combination. Recent years have however witnessed the rapid decimation of the influence of Sharad Yadav, the JD-U president, in the Kosi belt and the gradual passing off of the mantle to Pappu. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Pappu and his wife Ranjita Ranjan had won the Madhepura and Supaul seats. The most interesting part of their victory was the fact that while Pappu had won as a RJD candidate, his wife won on the Congress ticket. It showed that they can attract Yadav votes irrespective of party affiliation.

On the whole, the NDA is aiming for an upper caste-extreme backward caste(EBC)-Dalit consolidation. It has reasons to be optimistic in this segment as in the last Lok Sabha poll, 42 percent of the Dalits and 53 percent of EBC voters had voted for the NDA. Interestingly the EBC voters constitute 24 percent of the state electorate. Moreover, for making inroads into the Yadav camp, the BJP-led NDA has this time nominated 26 Yadav candidates. In addition, Pappu’s outfit is contesting 64 seats. So, all eyes will be fixed on the electoral behavior of the Yadavs.

This community’s leadership question is now at cross-roads. It enjoyed a modicum of sober leadership during the time of Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav. But its next messiah, Lalu Prasad, is a convicted man now.

Rabri Devi, Lalu’s wife, lost in the 2005 assembly poll. In 2010, she lost in two seats and in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll she again lost in Saran. Lalu experimented by fielding his daughter Misa for the Pataliputra parliamentary seat in 2014. But Misa also lost, though the constituency has a large Yadav concentration.

(by Amitava Mukherjee ,IANS)

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Government Introduces Quota Bill For Upper Castes in Lok Sabha

The government decision has been described by the opposition as another "election gimmick" to garner votes

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The government on Tuesday introduced a Constitution amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha that seeks to provide 10 per cent reservation for economically backward sections in the general category in government jobs and higher educational institutions.

The introduction of the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawarchand Gehlot was a smooth affair in the House with no member raising any objection.

The Bill, cleared by the Union Cabinet on Monday with an eye on the upper castes vote in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, seeks to amend Articles 15 and 16 under whose present provisions the benefits of the existing reservations are generally not available for the economically weaker sections of the forward castes.

The statement of objects and reasons appended to the Bill said that the economically weaker sections of citizens have largely remained excluded from attending the higher educational institutions and public employment on account of their financial incapacity to compete with those persons who are economically more privileged.

The benefits of existing reservations under clauses (4) and (5) of Article 15 and clause (4) of Article 16 are generally unavailable to them unless they meet the specific criteria of social and educational backwardness, it said.

The directive principles of State policy contained in Article 46 of the Constitution enjoins that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Quota Bill for upper castes introduced in Lok Sabha.

Under the Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act, 2005, clause (5) was inserted in Article 15 of the Constitution which enables the State to make special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes, in relation to their admission in higher educational institutions.

Similarly, clause (4) of Article 16 of the Constitution enables the State to make special provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.

However, the statement of the objects and reasons said the economically weaker sections of citizens were not eligible for the benefit of reservation.

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“With a view to fulfil the mandate of Article 46, and to ensure that economically weaker sections of citizens to get a fair chance of receiving higher education and participation in employment in the services of the State, it has been decided to amend the Constitution of India,” it said.

Accordingly, the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 provides for reservation for the economically weaker sections of society in higher educational institutions, including private institutions aided or unaided by the State other than the minority educational institutions referred to in article 30 of the constitution and also provides for reservation for them in posts in initial appointment in services under the State, the government said in a statement.

The government decision has been described by the opposition as another “election gimmick” to garner votes. (IANS)