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Census & Sensibility: Bihar Caste Survey Boosts Nitish’s Position Without Hurting Any Party, for Now

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The release of the first-of-its-kind caste survey findings in Bihar has set the political tone in the state, and its broader impact will soon be felt on a national scale as well. While the survey report still lacks clarity on several issues, it highlights the numerical dominance and electoral influence of OBCs in the state in no uncertain terms. This is also seen as a boost to chief minister Nitish Kumar’s political stature both inside and outside Bihar.

Buoyed by the potential electoral implications of the survey results, the CM posted on social media that his government would soon convene a meeting with the nine parties in the Bihar assembly to discuss the findings.

The electoral significance of these findings has triggered a race among political parties to claim credit for the survey. Nitish’s ally and the largest political party in the state, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, has asserted its role, along with the Congress, and even the opposition BJP in the state.

However, upon closer scrutiny of the survey numbers, it becomes evident that the biggest political gains will be enjoyed by CM Nitish Kumar. Hailing from the Kurmi caste, which constitutes just around 2.87% of the state’s population, according to the survey, Kumar has been basing his politics on what political scientists term, a ‘tripod’.

The first pillar of this strategy involved garnering support from the Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs), a term used to collectively denote numerous smaller and scattered backward castes in the state. The survey has now found that the EBCs, constituting 36.01% of the population, are the largest social segment in the state, followed by the Other Backward Classes at 27.13%.

The second caste grouping that Nitish innovated was the concept of Mahadalits, which refers to the poorest social groups within the Scheduled Castes (SC). The survey has found that 19.7% of those counted belong to the SC community, a number significantly higher than the 2011 census count of 15.91%.

However, besides Nitish’s JD(U), the Lok Jan Shakti Party of the late Ram Vilas Paswan’s clan and former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) also claim a significant share of the Dalit votes in the state. Paswan’s party lays claim to Dusadh votes, while Manjhi’s support comes from the Mushar community.

The results of the new survey though may prompt Nitish’s opponents to question whether he can retain the position of CM, considering that he hails from the Kurmi caste, which comprises only 2.87% of the population. In contrast, the Koeris, with a 4.21% share of the population, have two prominent leaders: Samrat Chaudhary, the BJP state president, and Upendra Kushawaha of the Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal, who was once a friend but is now a foe of Nitish.

Lastly, Kumar relied on the Kurmi-Koeri or ‘Luv-Kush’ caste matrix, although not in the same order.

The survey outcome will also elevate Nitish Kumar’s standing within the INDIA bloc, where, despite being the first mover in alliance formation, he has recently been sidelined. Additionally, it will alleviate the pressure on the Bihar CM, as some insiders have suggested that the RJD, his ally, was pressuring him to pursue a “larger” national role, which could have meant leaving the state to the Tejashwi Yadav-led party.

The accomplished survey could also smoothen Nitish’s journey and bolster his negotiating strength, should he choose to rejoin the BJP-led NDA camp.

It will further intensify competition among opposition parties as they strive to reach out to backward castes and secure their votes.

For the RJD, having a definitive count of both its core Muslim and Yadav voters is significant. The number of Yadavs in the state, previously estimated to be between 9% and 12%, has now emerged as the largest caste group with over 14% headcount, constituting over 50% of the Backward Caste population (27.12%).

Additionally, the proportion of Muslims in the state’s population has risen from 16.86% in the 2011 census to 17.70%.

Despite the expansion of its core voter base, the RJD could face challenges in maintaining power and influence in state politics, particularly in the race for the chief minister’s post. This is because the politics of the Extremely Backward Classes may overshadow the politics of the Backward Castes, which has been the focus of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s efforts for years.

In addition, the aggressive number posturing by the Yadav leadership may further alienate the EBCs from the RJD, as there could be a rise in anti-Yadav polarisation, as both groups are not seen as socially compatible on the ground.

The Yadavs, alongside the Kurmis and Koeris, who have been the primary beneficiaries of government schemes and reservations, might now need to share resources and power more equitably with the EBCs.

The Muslims, who have so far largely followed the Yadav leadership within the RJD, may start seeking better representation both within the party’s leadership and in positions of power.

The increase in the share of Scheduled Castes, rising by 3.79% to 19.7% compared to the 2011 census, is likely to further bolster the ambitions of Dalit leaders in the state. Dusadhs, who constitute the core vote bank of the Paswan clan, along with Dhari and Darahi communities, account for 5.31% of the state’s population. Meanwhile, Mushars, the electoral backbone of Manjhi’s HAM, make up 3.08% of the total population, according to the survey. Leaders like Manjhi may leverage these numbers to negotiate for more seats from the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

For the BJP, the findings of the survey do not pose a concern. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is himself an OBC, leading the party, it would not be easy for the opposition to level charges of the BJP being anti-OBC. The BJP’s Bihar state president, Samrat Chaudhary, also comes from the EBC grouping. Central schemes, like the recently launched PM Vishwakarma, are specifically targeted at the politically non-dominant but numerically superior EBCs.

Furthermore, the survey findings have also laid the groundwork for the BJP-led Centre, in case it decides to implement the recommendations of the Justice Rohini Commission. Although the report of the commission, which was established for the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes and fair distribution of benefits among the groups, has not yet been made public, experts believe that this could potentially be a game-changer for the saffron party.

The general category, or the “upper castes”, constituting 15.52% of the population, is in line with expectations. However, with the continued focus on appeasement of OBCs and EBCs, this group may further lean towards the BJP.

At the national level, the survey will intensify competition among opposition parties as they vie for a share of the OBC vote. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has already praised the survey, while the Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh has reportedly called for a nationwide caste census.

In the coming weeks, this issue will dominate the political discourse until another political party makes a bigger, bolder, and better move related to the OBCs.



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‘Many of Us Felt Bhujbal Deserved to Be CM’: Ajit Pawar Counters Sharad Pawar’s Remarks on 2004 Deal with Congress

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Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. (File image: X)

Had the NCP taken the Maharashtra chief minister’s post in 2004, it would have maintained that position throughout its coalition with the Congress, Ajit Pawar added

Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in a recent statement strongly contested Nationalist Congress Party founder Sharad Pawar’s claim regarding the 2004 assembly elections. Despite the NCP securing 71 seats and the Congress 69, the chief ministerial post was given to the latter. Ajit Pawar stated the “underlying reasons” behind this decision, shedding light on the then internal party dynamics.

Reflecting on Sharad Pawar’s comments, Ajit Pawar said, “A few days ago, Sharad Pawar remarked that had the NCP taken the chief minister’s position in 2004, the party would have split. This statement is entirely false. During discussions with Sharad Pawar at the time, senior leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, Praful Patel, and Sunil Tatkare were present. We all believed that the chief minister should be from our party. Personally, I was not interested in the position then; I thought Chhagan Bhujbal should be the chief minister because he played a crucial role in expanding our party across Maharashtra. None of us could deny his contribution.”

Ajit Pawar then spoke on why Chhagan Bhujbal was not picked. “Many of us felt Bhujbal deserved to be the chief minister. However, I have a different understanding of why Sharad Pawar did not make him the chief minister. According to my reliable information, after making Sudhakarrao Naik the chief minister, Naik stopped listening to Sharad Pawar within a year. Naik even made bold statements, implying that he could handle any challenges independently. This led to the removal of 17 leaders, including Bhujbal, from the cabinet. Vijay Singh Mohite-Patil informed us at the time that we were being excluded from the cabinet, sparking a series of disruptions,” he said.

Had the NCP taken the chief minister’s post in 2004, it would have maintained that position throughout its coalition with the Congress, the deputy CM added. “Any leader from our party could have become the chief minister, potentially Bhujbal, followed by leaders like RR Patil,” he said.

Explore in-depth coverage of Lok Sabha Election 2024 Voter Turnout, Upcoming Phase, Results Date, Exit Poll And Much More At News18 Website



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‘Write Articles After Smoking Marijuana’: Fadnavis React To Sanjay Raut’s Comment On Nitin Gadkari

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Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis (PTI file photo)

Raut claimed that ‘Modi, Shah and Fadnavis’ conspired against their own party leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to ensure his defeat in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections from Nagpur

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday rebuked at Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut’s claims that top BJP leaders, including PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Fadnavis himself, conspired against their own party leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to ensure his defeat in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections from Nagpur.

Speaking to the media on Monday, Fadnavis dismissed Raut’s allegations, saying, “I have repeatedly said not to ask me questions about Sanjay Raut. I don’t speak about people who write articles after smoking marijuana. I think he is in London, where there is good mental treatment available. He should take the appropriate medications.”

On Sunday, Raut, who is also the spokesperson for Shiv Sena (UBT), alleged in the party’s mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ that Fadnavis had unwillingly campaigned for Gadkari in Nagpur only after realising that Gadkari could not be defeated. Nagpur is the hometown of both BJP leaders.

“Modi, Shah and Fadnavis worked for Gadkari’s defeat in Nagpur. Fadnavis unwillingly joined the campaign for Gadkari when he realised he couldn’t be defeated. The RSS people in Nagpur are openly saying Fadnavis helped the opposition to get Gadkari defeated,” Raut wrote.

Raut further claimed that Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had distributed Rs 25-30 crore in every constituency and used his resources to defeat candidates from the NCP, led by Ajit Pawar.

He further took a swipe at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, suggesting that Adityanath would be replaced if the Modi-Shah government returned to power after the Lok Sabha elections.

(With inputs from agencies)

Explore in-depth coverage of Lok Sabha Election 2024 Voter Turnout, Upcoming Phase, Results Date, Exit Poll And Much More At News18 Website



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Black Money’s Impact On Polls To Rise, Alternative To Electoral Bond Scheme Should Be Found: Shah

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Union Home Minister Amit Shah (File Photo)

Amit Shah believes the influence of black money will increase during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections following the Supreme Court’s decision to scrap the electoral bond scheme

Home Minister Amit Shah believes the influence of black money will increase during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections following the Supreme Court’s decision to scrap the electoral bond scheme, and suggested all stakeholders will have to deliberate and decide on an alternative.

If the impact of black money rises, then an alternative should be found, he said, adding that it is for Parliament to debate and decide on any other mechanism for funding to political parties.

He told PTI in an interview on Saturday that the electoral bond scheme, which allowed donors to fund political parties anonymously by purchasing bonds from the SBI, was scrapped at a crucial time.

The Supreme Court had struck down the scheme in February, a month before the Lok Sabha elections were announced.

Replying to a question on the issue, he said, ”I believe and this is my guess that it will increase the influence of black money in elections and politics. When political parties submit their account for this fiscal year, then how much money is by cash donation and how much is through cheque will be known. The donation figure by cheques had reached 96 per cent at the time of the bond.”

He added, ”Now you will know. If the impact of black money rises, then an alternative should be found. There should be a debate in Parliament.” Asked if he thought the influence of black money would increase in the ongoing elections due to the scrapping of the electoral bond scheme, Shah said, ”I guess so.” When asked what he considered an alternative to the bond scheme, he said the issue needed to be discussed with all stakeholders, including different political parties.

He said, ”This will have to be debated in Parliament. We will have to discuss this with all parties. The Supreme Court’s view since their judgment has come is also very important. The Attorney General and Solicitor General will also have to be consulted. So we will have to deliberate collectively and decide on a new alternative.” The apex court had struck down the electoral bond scheme, saying it violated the right to information and the freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution. The court had also made public the names of all donors and their beneficiaries.

The central government, has, however, insisted that the scheme was aimed at curbing the influence of black money in politics and that donors were allowed to remain anonymous so that they were not targeted by one political party or another for funding their rival parties.

Opposition parties have alleged that the scheme was used by the BJP to ”legitimise” bribery by business interests, a charge rejected by the ruling party as it claimed that its rivals received more funding relative to their electoral strength.

Explore in-depth coverage of Lok Sabha Election 2024 Voter Turnout, Upcoming Phase, Results Date, Exit Poll And Much More At News18 Website

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)



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