Patna, May 8 : Shifting caste equations in Bihar could set the alarm bells ringing for the Bharatiya Janata Party for the 2024 Lok Sabha and 2025 Vidhan Sabha elections.
The preparations for working out the caste and community equations have already begun in Bihar and this was reflected in the recently concluded Bochahan by-election and the polling for 24 MLC seats.
The biggest worry for the BJP is the traditional upper caste votes, especially the Bhumihar and Brahmin communities, shifting towards the RJD and the latter grabbing them with both arms.
The people of the Bhumihar community are complaining that the BJP continuously ignored them despite their having wholeheartedly supported the saffron party for decades.
Ashutosh Kumar, the founder of the Bhumihar Brahman Ekta Manch (BBEM), told IANS that his community worked at the ground level to strengthen the BJP but its leaders did not get active participation in the party and the government.
"We worked at the ground level and unanimously gave 100% votes to the BJP or its alliance partners in Bihar but its top leaders believe that we are their traditional vote banks and we would never go away from them. Hence, they have started reducing the quota of the Bhumihar community and started promoting OBC leaders in the party," Kumar said.
"We want active participation in the party according to our strength but BJP leaders think otherwise. Hence, we have finally decided to support the RJD. Tejashwi Yadav is a good leader and he has a smart brain. He knew our strength. He had given 5 seats out of 24 MLC seats to candidates of the Bhumihar community in the recently concluded elections and three of them managed to win. The RJD gave 20% seats in that election which was satisfactory for our community. We have also supported the RJD in the Bochahan by-election and its leader Amar Paswan won the contest," Kumar said.
"We have a simple demand and that is active participation according to our strength. Tejashwi Yadav is showing a positive intent towards us which was also reflected in the recently concluded Parshuram Jayanti. We organised an event on Parshuram Jayanti at Bapu Sabhagar in Patna where he promised to provide equal participation in the party."
Ashok Kumar, ex-member of BBEM told IANS: "Bihar has 242 assembly seats and whoever gives us 40 seats in Bhumihar dominant areas like Arwal, Jahanabad, Bhojpur, Buxar, Begusarai, Patna east, Nawada, Muzaffarpur etc, we will support them."
"The trust deficit emerged between the BJP and the upper caste community people after the Narendra Modi government sidelined leaders like Rajiv Pratap Rudy who belongs to the Rajput community, Ravi Shankar Prasad who represents the Kayasths in Bihar and Ashwani Kumar Chowbey. The Bhumihar community was sidelined after former CM Sri Krishna Singh. The leaders of the Bhumihar community did not reach the top post in Bihar. Giriraj Singh is an exception. He is surviving in the Narendra Modi government due to his hardcore Hindutva ideology," he said.
The Bhumihars are considered the most educated, landlords and financially sound caste in Bihar. They have around 7% votes in Bihar. The Bhumihars were considered the traditional vote bank of the Congress before 1990. After the emergence of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Bhumihars were confused about supporting a particular party. Hence, its votes were divided between the Congress, the BJP and the RJD from 1990 to 1995. Then in Bihar from 1995 to 2000 Dalits and upper caste people were killed on a mass level. People of the Bhumihar caste formed an illegal armed militia, the Ranveer Sena and its founder was the late Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya of Belaur village in Bhojpur district.
During that period, a number of massacres like Laxmanpur Bathe, Senari, Bathani Tola, Afsar etc took place in Bihar mainly in Arwal, Jahanabad and Bhojpur districts with the Ranveer Sena and the CPI (ML) pitted against each other. At that time, a slogan called "Bhura Baal Saaf Karo" meant to wipe out the Bhumihar caste, went viral in Bihar. The people of the Bhumihar community generally have brownish hair in Bihar.
That slogan was reportedly given by then CM Lalu Prasad, though there is no proof of it. Despite that, opposition leaders in Bihar often blamed Lalu Prasad for that slogan. Due to the massacres, the Bhumihar caste shifted completely towards the BJP and its alliance partners after 2000.
Ashutosh Kumar believes that Lalu Prasad was allegedly responsible for the massacres in Bihar as the majority of the massacres took place during his and his wife Rabri Devi's tenures as chief minister. But Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did the surgical strikes on the Bhumihar. During his government, many leaders including Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya were eliminated.
Tejashwi Yadav, during an event organised by the Bhuhar-Brahmin Ekta Manch in Patna on the occasion of Parshuram Jayanti said that he believes in walking together with the Bhumihars.
"The relations cannot sour or improve suddenly. We are not here to take your vote or play vote bank politics. We came here to win your trust," Tejashwi said.
"In the last MLC election for the 24 seats, we gave five tickets to Bhumihar candidates and three of them managed to win the election. It indicates that if you take the initiative towards us for the betterment of society and the state, we always support you," Tejashwi said.
After the Bhumihars went towards the RJD, the JD-U leaders are trying to polarize the Rajputs in its favour. A meeting of the Rajput Vichar Manch was organized at the official residence of JD-U MLC Sanjay Singh in Patna on Friday. The Manch has decided to organize an event on June 30 in Patna to bring the Rajput community together in Bihar.
Arvind Bhai, senior leader and spokesperson of the Bihar BJP, denied all these charges. He said: "the BJP is doing politics of Jamaat (Society) and not Jaat (Individual caste). We have lost in Bochahan but that does not mean any caste or community has gone away from us. In a Vidhan Sabha by-election, voting is done only on local issues. We are absolutely sure about thumping success in the 2024 Lok Sabha and 2025 Vidhan Sabha elections.
"People of our caste voted for Nitish Kumar in the past and it will continue in the future as well. Our participation in the party is also reducing in Bihar and that was the point of discussion in the meeting," Sanjay Singh said.
Bihar has a total of 72140945 electoral voters till January 2020 including 38088338 males, 34250262 females and 2339 transgenders. Among them, only 19 percent voters are from the upper castes and if the Bhumihars having 7% votes will separate from the BJP, it will be a big jolt for the party keeping in view the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Besides the upper castes, 16 percent voters are Dalits, 17 percent are Muslims, 16 percent Yadavs are already in favour of the RJD in Bihar. The remaining 38 percent belong to OBC.
During the 2020 assembly election, the division of Muslim votes was another factor for the defeat of the RJD in Bihar. At that time, around 20 seats were such where AIMIM created divisions in the Muslim votes. The AIMIM managed to win 5 seats in Bihar and at the same time it played the role of "Vote Katwa" in around 15 seats mainly in the Seemanchal region. The Muslim community is now realizing the consequences of giving votes to the AIMIM. The RJD failed to form the government in Bihar.