Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why BJP faced Brahmin, Bhumihar backlash in Bihar?


If the tally in the ultimate for Bihar polls looked so gloomy for the four NDA constituents including BJP and allies like LJP of Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan, HAM of Mahadalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha-led RLSP, they had to blame themselves. But the shocking part of the entire game was the clear displeasure of BJP's traditional support base Bhumihars and Brahmins. 

The BJP chief Amit Shah had claimed that he had the most detailed 'micro-analysis' up to the booth level, but this was a faulty claim. The NDA ally LJP fielded a candidate Geeta Pandey from one of the constituencies in the Arrah Lok Sabha seat. The choice showed that Amit Shah's claim of micro-analysis was bogus as "She is wife of jailed Narendra Pandey alias Sunil Pandey, who is accused in the murder of Brahmeshwar Mukhiya, an iconic figure for Bhumihars".

The sitting BJP MP R K Singh, former Home Secretary, opposed this because even hailing from the elite IAS cadre, Singh comes from the land where Brahmeswar Mukhiya is venerated. "But the BJP leadership lacked all understanding to allow free hand to Ram Vilas Paswan," a party leader said.
Was this combination better?

Post the debacle, while the likes of L K Advani and forgotten characters Arun Shourie sought headlines, on the ground BJP and RSS district level workers point out at other lacunae in campaign strategy and ticket distribution. 

Former Bihar Minister and respected Kailashpati Mishra, a founding father of Bihar Jan Sangh and BJP, was born in Buxar, into a Bhumihar family. The saffron party has been generally sympathetic to anti-Naxal militia Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Mukhiya, also a Bhumihar chieftain.Thus, BJP traditionally has been also the first choice of the Bhumihars. But this time, it fielded 18 Bhumihars as against over 30 Rajputs, who had always stayed away from Bhumihars and BJP.

As it is from 2014 itself, Bhumihars were unhappy over BJP's alliance with pro-Dalit LJP. In the past too Rajputs as a caste flocked to the RJD chief Lalu Prasad after Congress lost sheen so much so that the RJD in 2009 had four Lok Sabha MPs - three were Rajputs besides Lalu himself.

While senior leader CP Thakur, a Bhumihar, spoke for his group, there was none to champion the cause of Brahmins. Rajputs also have vocal leaders in union ministers Radhamohan Singh and Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
The Brahmins caste felt neglected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “there is no Brahmin minister” in the Modi cabinet from Bihar. “The Brahmins were taken for granted,” said a party MP.
Brahmins thus got back at the BJP with vengeance and so the party lost seats where Brahmins influenced the outcome. Buxar, which has always been seen a Brahmin seat, was lost. 
Radhamohan Singh: A non-performer?

The BJP lost 7 seats in Brahmin strongholds Bhagalpur region and it was also decimated in Banka. RJD also uprooted BJP from Mithilanchal region, where Brahmins are in large numbers. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD also swept through Rajput dominated areas of Arrah, Chapra and Champaran.

The verdict ultimately showed that the BJP and Modi's poll managers were disconnected with the reality of Bihar.

In contrast to BJP's traditional ‘Baniya-Brahmin’ image, this time party strategists led by, now embattled, Amit Shah sought to prop up other castes including traditional Brahmin rivals including Rajputs and Bhumihars. Like in UP, Brahmins in Bihar are reckoned as opinion makers and their anguish thus swung voters of other castes too as Brahmins in villages still offer persuasive arguments in tea stalls to work places including to women.

"Brahmins were annoyed for more reasons than one. Our traditional support base was disturbed that on the eve of elections forgetting committed workers for last two decades, BJP indulged in a blatant caste politics and appeasement of backward castes," a source said adding a group of upper caste Bihar leaders at the district levels now propose to take up with the central leadership on how things were mishandled.

Namo in search of "corrective steps"?

“The BJP has humiliated Brahmins and likes of Ashwani Chaubey stood happy in Bhagalpur after party gave ticket to his son Arijit Shaswat. Brahmins were never ignored by the BJP earlier,” retorted an angry Bihar-based leader. Moreover, sources said, attempts to woo Rajputs and Bhumihars were "partly misguided misadventure and partly wrongly handled".
 In the meantime, even as media and analysts throw up reasons those led to the rout for BJP in Bihar, party's own scrutiny of poll performance shows the strategists had simply gone haywire in overestimating the strength of its regional allies especially the Maha Dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi.
"It was a poor political combination against a superb caste formula worked out by our rivals. Things went against NDA so much against us that the Maha Dalit card the BJP had depended upon simply failed," a Bihar BJP leader said. 
True, at the end of the day as results came what amazed everyone is that the NOTA vote share was bigger than HAM party led by Jitan Ram Manjhi, - left to himself was also a potential Chief Minister !
"We will not describe Bihar polls simply to victory of the casteist passion whipped
by RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. It was also failure of our caste equations," BJP source said. 

BJP has reasons to form such views as Manjhi himself lost sitting Makhdumpur reserved seat while his son Santosh Kumar Suman was humbled at Kutumba in Aurangabad.

In the elections while NOTA vote share stood at 9,47,185 votes making it 2.5 per cent of votes polled, Manjhi's party - ironically which even spoke of making their leader the Chief Minister - could poll only 2.3 per cent and thus 8,46,856 votes.

Even RLSP led by Upendra Kushwaha, another caste leader, polled a modest 2.6 per cent votes for the 23 seats they contested.
After hard bargaining Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM) contested 20 seats while
BJP was also forced to give additional seats from its quota to accommodate HAM candidates. BJP and RSS second rung leaders who campaigned in Bihar later said in many assembly segments, genuine party workers were displeased at the manner seats went to allies.

"They were all Narendra Modi fan and keen to vote and work for Lotus symbol, but once they were told about other symbols, things simply went unheard," a party leader explains.
The BJP reading is also clear that Bihar's Yadav castes -- sidelined politically for last 10 years since 2005 - voted with vengeance.
"But Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP's failure surprised us. While Manjhi's party won only one seat, LJP could pick up only 2 seats. This shows LJP benefited during Lok Sabha polls owing to the Modi wave, their votes did not get transferred," an insider said.


An analysis of results showed that in fact of nine popular Dalit seats, only two were won by the NDA and of this one each was shared by BJP and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of Upendra Khushwaha.

Similarly, among Mahadalits for which BJP banked singularly on Jitan Ram Manjhi, the 'grand alliance' walked away with 15 winners while Manjhi was the sole winner from his party. "BJP has three winners from the Mahadalit community showed that party workers gave their best where we had our won candidates," sources said.

JD(U) won five out of six Mahadalits candidates and Congress bagged one out of three nominees. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP along with LJP and RLSP had polled 39.41 votes had won 31parliamentary seats and percentage wise in 2015 assembly elections in Bihar, it dropped to 34.10 per cent. 
Significantly enough, fighting together JD(U), RJD and Congress in assembly elections managed to pick up 41.90 per cent votes.

(ends) 

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