The caste survey report conducted by the Bihar government and released earlier this week is, in all likelihood, an indicator of another social unrest in the state.
The process began in the 1970s and seemed to have stabilized under the leadership of Other Backward Classes (OBC) patriarchs Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar. As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began establishing its presence in the state, the process for another round of Mandal politics began with the formation of the Mahagathbandhan (the Grand Alliance) under the leadership of Nitish Kumar.
In the 1970s, Bihar had five chief ministers from the backward classes (BC) and two from the scheduled castes (SC). “The arrival of ministers from backward castes/scheduled castes did not alter the social advantage much, except for the decision of the late Karpoori Thakur as education minister to abolish English from school and university curricula as well as its requirement in the higher education institutes. This led to a dramatic change in the social composition of the institutes, with an influx of students from rural areas and backward castes and a rise in ‘forwards’ among the backward castes (Yadavs, Kurmis, Koeris), said Gyanendra Yadav, associate professor of sociology based in Patna.
“There is no such thing as voting for development, at least not in Bihar. Castes, there are many, and the maneuvering has begun after the political realignment caused by the split between the two main parties in Bihar – JD (U) and BJP, after 17 years – last August. As the state heads towards parliamentary elections scheduled for 2024, caste dynamics will be the basis of electoral choices of all parties, based on both old positions and new calculations,” a senior NDA leader said shortly after for the census report to be published. “The caste calculus in the state has not changed in the slightest,” he added.
Yadav, however, noted that the impact could well be far-reaching.
“The impact of the caste survey will be noticeable in the coming months as it has provided the actual numerical strength of the caste groups, which could create a new set of leaders and challenges for the current leadership,” he said.
Impact of the JP movement
According to Yadav, the JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) movement of 1974 is when the seeds of the politics of the 1990s were sown. “Almost all the subsequent political leaders of the 1990s” emerged from there, he said.
Despite not being expressly focused on social issues of caste, this movement fueled the process of power shift and proved to be a training ground for the new generation of leaders. Just as the previous generation of leaders had the reference to the fight for the ‘first Independence’; The new leaders now had the reference to the “second freedom.”
The impact was immediately witnessed. In the assembly and national elections following the JP Movement and Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, the Congress won no Lok Sabha seats in Bihar and only 57 of 324 seats in the state assembly. However, of these 57, the Yadavs for the first time topped the list with 10 victors, surpassing the Brahmins (9), followed by the Rajputs (7), the Bhumihars (6), the Koeris (4) and the Kurmis ( 2). In Bihar, Karpoori Thakur formed the Janata Ministry as chief minister.
Soon after, in 1978, Thakur implemented 25% reservation for the other backward classes in government services and decided to hold Panchayat elections that broke the dominance of the upper castes in local government. Between 1988 and 1989, Bihar saw the rise of caste armies like the Lorik Sena (Bhumihars), the Kunwar Sena (Rajputs), the Lal Sena (landless labourers) and the “parallel Naxalite government” in some parts of the state.
The roots of current political positions in Bihar’s caste matrix can be traced back to mandal politics of the late 1980s and the ensuing experiments in social engineering. The implementation of late Prime Minister VP Singh’s Mandal Commission report, which led to the creation of a new category for job reservations (the OBC), caused a major upheaval in North Indian politics.
The backward classes replaced the powerful upper castes in positions of political power, especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The struggle between the BJP and the Mahagathbandhan to gain an advantage in vote share by creating new forms of caste alliances and dividing each other clearly continues.
The caste survey report shows that OBCs constitute 27.12% of Bihar’s population, Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) 36.01%, SC 19.65%, Scheduled Tribes (ST) 1.68% and the rest (general) 15.52%.
The EBC consists of 112 castes, the BC of 30 castes, the ST of 32 and the SC of 22 castes.
“This will definitely lead the EBCs to demand not only greater party participation but also the prime minister’s presidency. So far, only Karpoori Thakur has become EBC CM,” said Anand Mandal, social activist and grandson of BP Mandal. “The same will be the aspirations of Muslims, who also constitute 17.70% of the population. They will also demand proportional representation, as has been the demand of the parties defending the caste survey,” he said.
“Muslim CM” has already become one of the top trending topics on granted minimal representation.
OBCs, EBCs and Muslims form the core group of voters of the Nitish-Lalu combine and if these communities by and large stick to the Grand Alliance, the BJP is in trouble here.
“36% EBC population would be important for Kumar’s survival as it is this section of society that Kumar has created as a vote bank,” said the former head of economics department at Patna University, N.K. Chowdhary.
But support for castes does not always mean votes
Nitish has been in power since 2005 and has created a set of castes comprising not only his fellow Kurmis but also other non-Yadav OBCs (EBCs) and Mahadalits. He also has a considerable support base among upper castes and dominant minorities. “The 36% EBC population with 112 subcastes was instrumental in giving Kumar an almost uninterrupted run in the CM post since 2005 as this was the population that was lately afraid of Lalu Prasad. But it is true that the BJP has made a substantial dent in that. Only time will tell if communities will continue to support Nitish Kumar,” Mandal said.
The caste group was created not only to serve as an exclusive support base but also to project an image of a leader who, being inclusive and empowering, had a flexible approach, was free from corrupting influences and, most importantly, had no no family baggage to support. carry.
The BJP, which reinvented its Hindutva line to carve a path between the OBC and the Dalits, was largely neglected by the traditional Mandal parties. The BJP could take advantage of the growing perception among numerically weaker OBC groups that parties like the Samajwadi Party or Rashtriya Janata Dal are led by the dominant Yadavs and serve only them, or the feeling among smaller Dalit communities that only the Jatavs have benefited from the Bahujan Samaj. Party.
Kumar, similarly, consolidated non-Yadav OBC groups and brought together Dalit parties in his coalition to dislodge now ally Lalu Prasad in Bihar. Experts are of the opinion that not only Kumar and Lalu would realign their electoral policies, but also the Saffron Party, which has started attacking caste groups in a planned manner.
“The scene of the 90s no longer exists. They have an OBC chief minister, the state party president is a Kushwaha and the party can spring a surprise by giving representation to more women,” Chowdhary said.