Bihar’s political arithmetic in the aftermath of the caste-based survey

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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna.  File.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Patna. File. , Photo Credit: PTI

With the release of the caste-based survey data the caste identification of the MLAs and MPs from Bihar will come to play a decisive role in the State’s politics, and may have nationwide ramifications as well.

The data indicates that Extremely Backward Class (EBC) maximum of 36% population followed by Other Backward Class (OBC) 27.12%, the Schedules Caste is at 19.6518% while Scheduled Tribe is 1.6824% and the General Caste population stands at 15.5224%. Meanwhile, the Hindus comprise 81.9986% of the population while Muslims are at 17.7088%.

Also read | The Bihar government’s caste-count

Going with the present situation, of the 243 members in Bihar’s Legislative Assembly, the majority belong to the Yadav community with 55 members whereas the OBC and the EBC communities comprise of 46 MLAs in all. Caste combination has always played an important role in Bihar politics. This would explain why communities such as Bhumihar who constitute 2.89% of the population, Rajputs with 3.45%, Brahmins who are at 3.66% and Kayastha with 0.60% boast of 64 members in the State Assembly.

Out of the 243 members, Muslims have 19 members, while the OBC and EBC communities have 46 members, and the Dalits stand at 39. Meanwhile, there are 28 women MLAs in toto in the 243 member assembly which makes 11.52%.

Going with the percentage out of 243, Muslims are 7.82%, Yadavas are 22.63% and EBC constitutes 18%.93 , Dalits stand at 16.04%, while the Upper Caste and Vaishya community consist of 26% and 8.23% respectively.

Similarly in the Lok Sabha, of the 40 members representing Bihar, seven are Rajputs (17.5%), three Bhumiha (7.5%), one Kayastha (2.5%), one Kurumi (2.5%), two Brahmins (5%), three Kushwaha (7.5%), six Scheduled Caste (15%), seven Extremely Backward Caste (17.5%), two Muslims (5%), three Vaishya (7.5%) and five Yadava (12.5%).

With the release of caste-based survey, the EBC politics will have an upper edge in Bihar as their number has increased from 30% to 36%.

The EBC, once considered a staunch supporter of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad in the post-Mandal environment of the 1990s, had subsequently shifted loyalties to Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal (United) by 2005. Kumar had worked hard to make an inroads among the EBCs and the work done by his government had paid rich dividends to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2010 elections. However, the results of the 2014 General Elections revealed that a good chunk of the EBC vote base was in favor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since then, the BJP has been trying hard to retain its EBC voters. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP and JD(U) contested together and won 39 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats.

However, in the changed scenario with RJD, JD(U), Congress and left parties contesting elections together, the BJP may find it difficult to draw on the EBC votes.

There was murmur among the social and political leadership of the EBC community that they had been deprived of their just rights even as the OBCs benefited. With the caste-based survey putting the EBCs ahead of the OBCs, the political headwinds might ultimately be in favor of the EBCs.

“The Bihar’s caste bases survey indicates that the share of EBC (which are 113 castes in all) is 36% (1/3rd of the population of EBC was reported by the Mungerilal Commission also) while their political representation in the Assembly Election of 2020 was around 11%. If we segregate this figure, old EBCs (which stood at 110 castes) got only 7% of seats, and the new EBCs caste (which incorporate Teli/Tamoli/Dangi since 2015) got 4%,” said Dr. Vidyarthi Vikas, Assistant Professor of Economics, AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna.

Mr. Vikas further said, “The EBC may reclaim its agenda nationally and propose that there should be division among OBCs at the national level also. The Rohini Commission may propose division among OBCs as Annexure I (EBC/MBC/BC1) and Annexure II (OBC/BC2). In sum it will lead to a national voice of caste census.”

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