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Centre’s No to Caste Census, Propping Up Paswan Jr & Fearing Uddhav's Fate: Why Nitish Pulled Plug on BJP Alliance

By: Aman Sharma

News18.com

Last Updated: August 10, 2022, 14:01 IST

Patna, India

The JD(U) and RJD want to keep the narrative on caste, as seen in 2015 when both parties won the state in an alliance on the back of Lalu Prasad milking the statement of the RSS chief on reservation. (PTI)

The JD(U) and RJD want to keep the narrative on caste, as seen in 2015 when both parties won the state in an alliance on the back of Lalu Prasad milking the statement of the RSS chief on reservation. (PTI)

The move has a deeper meaning with all parties in Bihar now coming together to revive the ‘Mandal’ narrative and return to caste-based political narrative to counter the BJP

“I was constantly humiliated by the BJP” — this is what Nitish Kumar told his party legislators on Tuesday before pulling the plug on his five-year-long alliance with the BJP.

The JD(U) leader was referring to four key events that led to this situation. First was what he saw as the BJP propping up of self-professed ‘Modi’s Hanuman’ Chirag Paswan in the 2020 elections to hurt the JD(U)’s chances and bring its tally down to 40-odd seats.

Second was former JD(U) leader RCP Singh joining the Union Cabinet a year later against Kumar’s wishes. Centre saying no to a country-wide caste census despite Kumar leading an all-party delegation to PM Narendra Modi last year was the third nail in the coffin of the alliance. Finally, the events in Maharashtra last month made Kumar worry deeply of a similar fate as Uddhav Thackeray.

The move, though, has a deeper meaning too with opposition parties in Bihar now coming together to revive the ‘Mandal’ narrative in the state and return to caste-based political narrative to counter the BJP, which has been aiming at a larger consolidation of voters based on its ‘Hindutva plank’.

The trailer of this was seen when Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav, along with other parties of Bihar, jointly led a delegation to the prime minister last year asking for a caste census. When the Centre said no to it, Kumar decided to embark on a caste census in Bihar which all opposition parties, including the BJP in Bihar, had backed. This caste census of Bihar is expected to be released before the next Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

BJP used the ‘nationalistic’ and ‘Hindutva’ appeal to unite Hindu voters across castes in Uttar Pradesh, making regional caste-based parties like Samajwadi Party and BSP irrelevant in state politics. Kumar feared a similar narrative was taking over in Bihar, with BJP expanding its base and recently embarking on a poll strategy for all 243 assembly seats in the state.

The JD(U) and RJD want to keep the narrative on caste, as seen in 2015 when both parties won the state in an alliance on the back of Lalu Prasad milking the statement of the RSS chief on reservation. Prasad swung the electorate in favour of the alliance in 2015 by saying the BJP would review and finish reservation if it came to power in Bihar.

The alliance now coming to power in Bihar comprises seven parties with 164 MLAs — much bigger than the alliance of 2015. This shows that all opposition parties in Bihar are eager to stop the BJP’s growing footprint in the state. The caste equation in the state is stacked in favour of the RJD-JD(U) led alliance but the BJP would aim at an aggressive stance to rally voters on the issue of development, stability, anti-corruption and law and order, and fight the next elections in Bihar on the face of Narendra Modi.

The BJP could not taste success in 2015 but it is hoping that a decade later, in the 2025 elections, its strategy would pay off.

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first published:August 10, 2022, 11:31 IST
last updated:August 10, 2022, 14:01 IST