Special Reports

Bihar Elections: Caste, beef dominate Amit Shah’s speech in his last rally of Phase 1

Samastipur, October 10, 2015: Notwithstanding the BJP’s claim that its core agenda is development, the issues of caste and beef dominated BJP President Amit Shah’s last rally of the first phase of Bihar Assembly Elections, held on Saturday.

Addressing a rally at the Airport Ground, which did not draw a huge crowd, Amit Shah openly played caste card, alleging that Lalu Prasad Yadav had preferred his wife to ati-pichhra  (Extremely Backward Castes or EBC) or a Dalit’s son as his successor for the chief ministership of Bihar.

After Lalu, Nitish Kumar came in for Shah’s attack as Kumar had "betrayed" (dhokha) a Dalit Chief Minister, Jitan Ram Manjhi.

Noteworthy was also his repeated references to Mukesh Sahani, who belongs to fishermen community, by his caste name as "son of Mallah".

Sahani left Bihar a decade ago and later settled in Mumbai as an industrialist (udhoypati). He is now mobilising his caste group in Bihar. Within two weeks, he switched his support from Lalu-Nitish grand alliance to the BJP-led NDA.

Sahani, along with BJP Bihar State President Mangal Pandey, accompanied Amit Shah in Saturday’s three rallies held at Samastipur, Rajauli and Gor.

Similarly, State BJP Chief Mangal Pandey and the BJP candidate from Samastipur constituency Renu Kumari mentioned Sahani’s caste identity repeatedly in their speeches, calling him the leader of "Nishad" and one who is fighting for the rights of EBCs.

EBCs have "fallen behind", particularly the Nishad community who are living in poverty, claimed Pandey.

Such a move of the BJP is well-calculated as it knows well that people love an appeal to their caste identity, according to noted social scientist Badri Narayan.

When his turn come to speak, Sahani too continued the logic, alleging Lalu and Nitish of cheating (thagna) extremely backward castes by depriving them of their due share in ticket distribution. He further claimed that Lalu and Nitish had no "road-map" and were desperate to get power.

The population of EBCs in Bihar is estimated to be higher than that of OBCs. However, when it comes to share in power, their representation has been far below their population. For example, the number of Mallah MLAs in Bihar assembly was 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3 in 1967, 1972, 1980, 1985, 1990 and 2000 respectively while it did not have any MLA in 1969, 1977, 1995, 2005 and 2010 assemblies, according to senior journalist and author Sri Kant (Raj aur Smaj, 2011, p. 27). It is not hard to understand why the BJP is openly playing the EBC card. While the dominant Other Backward Castes (OBCs) such as Kurmis and Yadavs, supported by Muslims, are the major supporters of the JD-U and RJD alliance, BJP, therefore, eyes small castes of ati-pichhra voters as potential supporters in the upcoming assembly elections.

After appealing to the EBCs, Amit Shah then raised the issue of beef, attacking Lalu.

What kind of gau-palak (one who breeds cows) Lalu is that he had made no difference between beef (gau maans) and mutton (bakre ka maans), said Shah. He then went on to say that if the BJP came to power, it would enforce a complete ban on killing cow and its breeds.

Abhay Kumar is pursuing PhD at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He may be contacted at debatingissues(a)gmail(.)com

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at sales@milligazette.com

blog comments powered by Disqus