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RJD Revives Mandal Math For 80-20 Poll Battle After BJP’s Upper Caste Quota Move

By taking a strident position on EWS quota, RJD is restricting Congress attempts to manoeuvre a space within BJP's core catchment area.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:February 3, 2019, 10:17 AM IST
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RJD Revives Mandal Math For 80-20 Poll Battle After BJP’s Upper Caste Quota Move
File photo of Tejashwi Yadav addressing a crowd in Patna. (Image: PTI)

With sons Tejaswi and Tej Pratap Yadav by his side, Lalu Yadav walked up to the mike with his quintessential swagger. In his left hand, he firmly held former RSS Chief MS Golwalkar’s ideological espousals in a ‘Bunch of Thoughts’.

"The present leadership of RSS is following the thought of its guru (Golwalkar)," Lalu roared in a direct reference to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s quota comments just ahead of the 2015 Bihar assembly polls. There is a conspiracy, he alleged, to end caste-based reservations and introduce positive discrimination purely on economic grounds.

In the last Bihar assembly elections, Nitish Kumar in the RJD-Congress-JD(U) triumvirate played the development card. Lalu kept the quota cauldron simmering using that one chink in the BJP armour to create a backward vs forward binary.

For 2019 general elections however, Nitish Kumar is back in the NDA fold. Lalu Yadav remains behind bars in Ranchi waiting for bail after fodder scam conviction. And his son Tejaswi is picking up thread to knit a new social coalition for the upcoming elections.

In doing that, RJD seems to be consciously gravitating towards an aggressive poll position aimed to regurgitate the Mandal math.

The 10% reservations bill for the economically weaker sections passed by the Modi government has provided the necessary launch pad to fire fresh salvos. The quota debate in parliament was an indication enough of the things to come.

Mandal parties, while speaking on the bill, welcomed the Constitutional Amendment to provide reservation to economic backward. The passage of the bill also saw Samajwadi Party, RJD, RSLP, Apna Dal and others making fresh demands for a decennial caste census.

The data, they said, should be used to provide proportional representation to socially and educationally backward communities in government jobs and education.

In the last one month, and since the passage of the bill, the RJD and its leadership have sought to revive the quota debate. The party through its statements is un-equivocally sending a message to the voter that 10% reservations for EWS is the beginning of the end of caste- based affirmative action.

As RJD works to builds a larger backward-minority social coalition in Bihar, the discourse seemingly is aimed at caste mobilisation - a social alliance of those who avail caste-based reservations and minorities versus those out of the ambit of caste quota.

Other smaller groups in the alliance like Upendra Kushwaha’s RSLP have only re-iterated apprehensions articulated by Tejaswi Yadav and other RJD leaders. It is a narrative which can slowly metamorphose into agada-pichda binary. That is an 80-20 election. Minority plus reserved categories in one side and upper caste on the other.

BJP got the EWS quota bill passed to re-assure its core upper caste support base. A tactical move based on feedback from MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh assembly elections.

In UP and Bihar, caste politics is a minefield where angles fear to tread. One wrong move, one statement can mar election campaigns.

In the buildup to this year's Lok Sabha polls, Congress and RJD were seemingly working on a two-pronged strategy to squeeze the BJP-JD(U) combine. While RJD tied up with smaller OBC parties to appropriate the social justice plank, Congress was reaching out to the upper caste.

The party sent a Bhumihar, Akhilesh Singh, to Rajya Sabha last year. It appointed a Brahmin as state unit chief. And the potential LS candidates it has lined up include some upper caste bahu-balis.

By taking a strident position on EWS quota, RJD is restricting Congress attempts to manoeuvre a space within BJP's core catchment area.

On the other hand, Nitish has been quick to respond to RJD's renewed attempts to play the caste card. Of late Bihar CM has echoed other Mandal parties in demanding a caste census. He can clearly see RJD making a string pitch to appropriate leadership of the backward classes.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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