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To Counter 'Forward-Backward' Battle in ‘Chittorgarh’ of Bihar, BJP Attempts Majority Mobilisation to Woo Caste Votes

In order to influence lower caste voters, who are otherwise expected to join hands with Muslims to vote for the HAM (S) candidate, BJP workers campaigning in the area are trying to unite castes based on their religion.

Rounak Kumar Gunjan | News18.com@Rounak_T

Updated:April 8, 2019, 3:07 PM IST
To Counter 'Forward-Backward' Battle in ‘Chittorgarh’ of Bihar, BJP Attempts Majority Mobilisation to Woo Caste Votes
Kishori Prasad with HAM(S) party workers.

Aurangabad: Aurangabad, popularly known as the Chittorgarh of Bihar, is all set to witness a direct contest between the forward and backward castes with the Grand Alliance pitting Upendra Prasad of the HAM (Secular) against sitting MP Sushil Kumar Singh of the BJP.

While BJP candidate Singh, the son of former MP Ramnaresh Singh alias Lootan Singh, is banking on the saffron party’s vote bank – Rajput, Bhumihar, Brahmin – HAM (S) candidate Prasad, a former MLC, is expecting votes from Koeris, Yadavs, Muslims, Paswans and Musahars in the scheduled caste category. After Rajputs, Musahars and Yadavs are in sizeable numbers in the constituency.

However, in this Rajput dominated constituency, the BJP is pitching Hinduism to eat into the opposition parties’ lower caste votes.

In order to influence lower caste voters, who are otherwise expected to join hands with Muslims to vote for the HAM (S) candidate, BJP workers campaigning in the area are trying to unite castes based on their religion.

Jhakku Manjhi, a local Musahar leader campaigning for the BJP says, "We are telling the lower caste voters that if they opt for an anti-BJP candidate, Muslims in the area will have an upper hand. After their government is formed, they will exploit those belonging to the backward castes."

"On the other hand," he adds," if BJP wins, Muslims will be subdued and backward castes will be respected because they are Hindus."

Jhakku is an affluent land-owning farmer in Aurangabad and has even contested for Panchayat elections in the area. He enjoys a considerable say among his community members.

He, along with his seven-member team, visits villages in Aurangabad's Dumaria and Imamganj area on a daily basis. They are also propagating the idea that the lower caste community needs to win the confidence of forward caste members in order to expect help from them in the future. This can only happen if they vote for the BJP.

"In future when the Manjhis are exploited, who do think you will help them? The Muslims? Never. It is the Rajputs, Bhumihars and Brahmins who will have to come to their rescue," he says.

Jhakku in his campaigns also reminds the villagers of communal riots that engulfed one-third of Bihar for a fortnight, including Aurangabad. "Hindus had to bear the brunt of what was started by Muslims. They cannot be given the greater say in things. If HAM (S) candidate wins, he will favour the Muslims and such things will only increase," he says.

On the other hand, representative of HAM(S) in the area, Kishori Prasad is confident of that lower caste votes will polled in his party's favour. "This is for the first time that the lower caste voters have found their own representative. People are referring to him as ghar ka aadmi," he says.

The religion card had never come up in this constituency before because HAM (S) found a way into the Aurangabad seat only after Congress, in a maiden move since the first general election held in 1952, did not field its candidate from this Rajput dominated seat. The denial of ticket to former Congress MP Nikhil Kumar has caused strong resentment among the workers of the Congress, who felt dejected due to the switching over the traditional seat to HAM (S).

Aurangabad became famous as the Chittorgarh of Bihar only because of the political battle between the two dominant Rajput families of the area — sitting MP Sushil Kumar Singh and erstwhile Congress candidate Nikhil Kumar.

Their respective fathers - Satyendra Narayan Singh and Ram Naresh Singh alias Lutan Singh - have fought the battle of ballots from this parliamentary constituency since 1957. The members of the two families have won this seat 12 times.

Meanwhile, supporters of HAM(S) feel that party chief Jitam Ram Manjhi's influence will also help their Aurangabad candidate, Upendra Prasad.

“In addition to Yadav-Muslim vote bank of the RJD, we will get the benefits of two other castes — Koeris and Mushahars. HAM (Secular) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi belongs to Musahar caste. Manjhi is contesting from the Gaya (SC) seat, which will impact the Aurangabad seat as well,” says Kishori Prasad of HAM.

While Upendra is a new face, Sushil has represented the seat thrice in the Lok Sabha in 1998, 2009 and 2014. He won the election in 2014 as a BJP candidate, and had been a Lok Sabha member in 2009 and 1998 representing the JD(U).

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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