In Bihar’s Koshi, Muslim-Yadav Factor to Decide the Fate of NDA, Grand Alliance
While the BJP-JD (U) alliance could turn tables in favour of the NDA, the Muslim-Yadav combination, along with support from Manjhi and Kushwaha communities, is bound to give grand alliance the much needed boost.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and others, during an election rally in Gaya. (Image: PTI)
Patna: Voting for Phase 3 of Lok Sabha elections took place on Tuesday in Bihar’s Koshi and the adjoining region of Mithila, where the Muslim-Yadav equation is likely to have played a key role. While developmental works of the Modi government are the driving force here, caste configuration is a reality that has almost always come to play in Bihar politics. Polling for Phase 3 was done in Khagaria, Supaul, Madhepura, Araria and Jhanjharpur Lok Sabha seats of Koshi, with 59.94 per cent voter turnout.
The key leaders fighting a close battle here are Sharad Yadav from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Pappu Yadav from Jan Adhikar Party Loktantrik (JAP), Ranjeet Ranjan from Congress and Dinesh Chand Yadav from Janata Dal (United). Mukesh Sahni, film set designer-turned-politician, is another important candidate who has thrown his hat in the ring from Khagaria LoK Sabha seat. Sahni is the chief of Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP).
A large chunk of population in these seats consists of the Muslim-Yadav (MY) combination, which appears to have directly influenced the poll electioneering, although the performance of central government were also among the influencing factors.
Comparing the developmental works carried out by Atal Bihar Vajpayee government and Modi government, Kusho Mahto, a resident of Parsarma Panchayat in Supaul district, said, “Koshi Maha Setu was constructed on Koshi river during the tenure of Vajpayee and Railway connectivity of Supaul was made possible during the incumbent Modi government. I kept these factors in mind before voting.
Echoing a similar sentiment was Firoj Alam, a school teacher. “Security remains the key issue and we voted for the party that can keep us safe and secure,” Alam said.
But several people living in the Supaul destrict seemed to be focused on the social equations and explained how caste remains the key yardstick while voting. Rajeev Singh from Kari Paswan in Supaul said, “Caste equation is as important in voting as other factors.”
Supaul is dominated by the Muslims and Yadavs (MY combination) with a large population of Extremely Backward Castes (EBC). A combination of Brahmins, Rajputs and SCs may outwit this equation here.
The main contestants in the fray here are JD(U) leader Dileshwar Kamat and Ranjeet Ranjan from the Congress. Ranjan belongs to the Yadav community and Kamat hails from the Kevat sub caste, an Extremely Backward Caste. However, independent candidate Dinesh Prasad Yadav, who claims to have the support of RJD, may spoil the chance of grand alliance candidate Ranjan.
Voting patterns were an altogether different ballgame in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when JD (U) and BJP contested separately. The BJP and JD (U) got 2,50,000 and 2,73,000 votes respectively. Ranjan won the polls with about 3, 29,000 votes.
While the alliance between BJP and JD (U) could turn tables in favour of the NDA, the Muslim-Yadav combination, along with Manjhi and Kushwaha communities’ support, may bind the grand alliance in a formidable force.
However, Madhepura district has different story to tell as the three main contestants here are Yadavs - Dinesh Chand Yadav from the JD(U), Sharad Yadav the from RJD and Pappu Yadav from the JAP. Madhepura also has a strong Muslim-Yadav population that etches to 1/3 of the total electoral.
“Pappu Yadav might kill the prospects of Sharad Yadav as their fight to retain the Yadav votes might hamper the chance of both the contestents,” says Sukho Chand, a Madhepura resident.
A combination of Extremely Backward Castes (EBC), coupled with Brahmins, Rajputs and SCs, pose a serious challenge to the Muslim-Yadav combination. A sizable chunk of Kurmi, Koiree, Dhanuk and Manjhi communities can tilt the balance in favour of candidate of their choice.
RJD leader Sharad Yadav campaigned vigorously to make a dent in the EBC and upper castes that make for the core voters of the NDA. JD (U)’s Dinesh Chand Yadav focused on dividing the Muslim-Yadav combination to dent Sharad’s prospects.
Madhepura saw a total voting percentage of 59.12.
Ajay Yadav, a first-time voter from Madhepura, said, “I am a first-time voter and have not fallen in the trap of caste equation. But Aryan, another resident, strongly supports the social equation. “I have voted for the ‘lantern’ (RJD election symbol) as I support Lalu Prasad Yadav. The people of Madhepura owe him a lot.”
In the Khagaria constituency, Mahboob Ali Kaisar of the LJP and Mukesh Sahni of the VIP party are locked in a close battle, although 18 other candidates have made the election here interesting.
Kaiser is the sitting MP of Khagaria and anti-incumbency remains a big issue against him. Sahni, on account of the strong Yadav-Muslim population, is expecting to win with a huge margin. Sahni told News 18 that the difference of margin would not be less than one lakh votes.
BJP ally LJP is also certain of making a dent in the Muslim-Yadav vote share as sitting MP Kaisar himself is a Muslim. The LJP is relying on the sizable population of Kurmi, Kushwaha, Paswan castes a sizable chunk of the Muslim population. The voting percentage in Khagaria is 58.83.
The situation is not much different in Jhanjharpur, where the NDA is relying on the combination of OBC, EBC, Dalit and upper caste voters. The grand alliance, on the other hand, is hopeful of garnering votes of Kushwaha, Sahni and Manjhi communities besides getting a support from Muslims and Yadavs. The voting percentage here is 56.94.
In the Araria constituency, religion seems to be a key factor as 44 percent voters are supposedly Muslims and 56 percent are Hindus. The EBC, half of Hindu population here, is playing a key role in setting the ground for the winner. The contest between grand alliance Safari Alma and BJP candidate Pradeep Kumar Singh is fierce and both tried to polarise votes on religious lines. The BJP candidate is from the EBC, which has a dominant presence in Araria. Araira saw 62.34 voters exercising their democratic rights on Tuesday.
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