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Bihar elections: No clear caste divide in Saran district, voters backing candidates irrespective of parties

By: Priyarag Verma

IBNLive.com

Last Updated: October 27, 2015, 00:14 IST

Bihar elections: No clear caste divide in Saran district, voters backing candidates irrespective of parties

It is not the party but the candidates who matter in this election especially in Saran where the two dominant groups are Yadavs and Rajputs.

Chhapra: In Saran districts, the caste divide seemed to have withered away as it is not the party but the candidates whom the voters are looking up to. While the forwards castes, a section of the other backwards castes and Dalits/Mahadalits are rooting for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, and the Yadav-Muslim combine along with Kurmis-Koeris (Kushwahas) and some extremely backward castes are with the Janata Dal United-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress Mahagathbandhan but a tour of some constituencies in Saran district reveals that voters are actually not divided completely along castes lines.

In many areas, the Yadavs seemed to prefer the NDA candidates while in some constituencies the forwards castes are with the Mahagathbandhan because of the candidate. This is proving to a headache for both the combine who were banking on their traditional voters backing them.

NDA as well as Mahagathbandhan leaders admit that it is not the party but the candidates who matter in this election especially in Saran district where the two dominant groups are Yadavs and Rajputs. Till a few years back this used to be a RJD bastion with Lalu Prasad winning his first Lok Sabha election from Chhapra (which became Saran constituency in 2009) way back in 1977 but the Narendra Modi wave in 2014 broke through the caste barriers ensuring an easy win for BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Singh Rudy.

Mukesh Tiwari, a 32-year-old Vikram tempo driver in Chhapra, says he will vote for the Mahagathbandhan candidate Randhir Kumar Singh. “I am looking at the candidate and the chief minister. This is not a vote for Delhi but for Bihar. I am a Brahmin but I will go with Nitish Kumar because he has developed Bihar and can do a lot more,” says Tiwari. His friend Ravi Kumar Choubey agrees while reading a newspaper.

Mukesh Tiwari, a tempo driver, said he will vote for the Mahagathbandhan candidate Randhir Kumar Singh.

BJP is banking in renowned doctor CN Gupta in Chhapra but his candidature has meant that another party leader Kanhaiya Singh who ended third in the August 2014 bypolls is contesting as an independent candidate. He is expected to take away a chunk of Rajput votes which the NDA was expecting but its leaders are hoping that most of those would be from the Mahagathbandhan’s kitty.

In Baniapur, a first time voter Jai Shankar Kumar sounds extremely excited at the prospects of voting. He, too, declares his preference for Nitish Kumar. Even though he studies in a Chhapra college, he has come to Baniapur to cast his vote. There are five voters in his family including his grandmother, grandfather, mother and elder sister. They are from the Ravidas caste which has been categorized as Mahadalit and want to see Mahagathbandhan candidate Kedar Nath Singh of the RJD win.

First time voter Jai Shankar Kumar is excited at exercising his franchise.

But a couple of kilometers away in the same constituency, it is a different story. A group of four shopkeepers are vocal in their support for BJP candidate Tarkeshwar Singh. While three of them are baniya, the other is a Yadav Mangal Rai. They all say that it is time for a new face in Patna and for that the NDA must come to power.

Mangal Rai says there has been some development in the area but the state of education is very poor and there are no jobs for the youngsters. “Those who are rich send their children to Delhi and other states. We cannot afford it so our children study here. But examination does not take place on time running their future prospects. This must change,” he adds.

There is even a division within the Rajput community which had wholeheartedly backed the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. Even Rajiv Pratap Singh Rudy’s campaign has not helped in consolidating the community behind the NDA candidates.

In Ekma from where JDU strongman Manoranjan Singh alias Dhumal Singh is contesting against Kameshwar Kumar Singh alias Munna, the divide among the upper caste Rajputs and Bhumihars is out in the open.

Rakesh Singh, a Rajput in Ekma, is backing Dhumal Singh because of two reasons. One is the caste and second is his desire to see Nitish Kumar as the CM. He introduces his friend Raju Singh, a Bhumihar, and says that many voters from their castes are with the Mahagathbandhan.

“Nitish Kumar is like god. He has done for Bihar what no other leader has done. Go to any village and there is electricity, there is concrete all-weather road. Schools are functioning and rule of law prevails. So why should we not vote for him,” Raju Singh asks.

Yet when one travels into the interiors and villages, there is palpable fear of violence after elections. Except Rajputs and Yadavs, no other community member wants to speak openly about their preference and clearly forbids taking photos.

After much cajoling a group of Mahadalits open up in Ekma. They want to vote for the NDA candidate but then quickly add that they will go by what the Rajputs, who dominate their village, decide. When asked who is going to win, an elder member of the group simply says, “Ka batai. Rajput log batal ba. Ka jaane (What can we say. Even Rajputs are divided. We don’t know).”

In the last Assembly elections out of the 10 seats in Saran, four seats – Ekma, Manjhi, Amnour and Parsa – were won by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United while the BJP had bagged Taraiya, Chhapra, Garkha and Sonepur. Lalu’s RJD had won Marhaura and Baniapur. After Chhapra MLA Janardan Singh Sigriwal won the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Maharajganj, the RJD bagged the seat in the bypoll.

Going into the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections, it is the Mahagathbandhan which holds seven seats while the NDA has only three. With no clear wave in favour of any party, it is the personal rapport of the candidates with the voters and their castes which will decide the winner.

first published:October 26, 2015, 23:14 IST
last updated:October 27, 2015, 00:14 IST
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