United over Rahul Gandhi, Bihar Opposition Finds Another Issue to Counter BJP

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The political parties in the state strongly believe that caste equations are the only weapon to counter the Hindutva politics of the BJP.

PATNA — Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha following the Surat court verdict that convicted him in a criminal defamation case has given new hope to Opposition parties in Bihar to corner the BJP.

The fear of central probe agencies is being considered as the reason for this “unprecedented” unity among opposition parties over the Rahul Gandhi issue. The family of Bihar’s former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav is continuously under the radar of central agencies.

When asked about Rahul Gandhi’s conviction and disqualification, Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav said: “We are watching everything, and will answer (the BJP) in the best way when the time comes.”

With his remarks, Tejashwi made it a loud and clear message that he is ready to fight against BJP.

“BJP keeps the Opposition busy in court cases and uses the Hindutva card to win elections. But now, Rahul Gandhi has given a clear message that they (Opposition) do not fear court cases and investigation agencies. And, the Hindutva card of the BJP will be countered through the caste combination,” a Congress leader said.

Bihar is crucial for the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as this is the state where BJP is not in power. Moreover, the caste equation is also not ideal for the BJP in the state.

When it comes to the caste equation here, Muslims have more than 18 per cent vote share followed by Yadavs (16 per cent), Kushwaha (12 per cent) and upper castes comprising Bhumihar, Brahmins, Rajput and Kayasth have around 15 per cent votes. These are estimated figures and the exact numbers would be revealed after the completion of caste-based census in the state, which is currently underway and the state government has announced that it will be completed in 11 months.

The political parties in the state strongly believe that caste equations are the only weapon to counter the Hindutva politics of the BJP.

Muslims and Yadavs are the core voters of RJD and Luv (Kurmi having 4 per cent voters)-Kush (Kushwaha having around 12 per cent voters) is the core voters of JD-U. On the other hand, the upper caste voters in the state are tilted towards BJP. Now, as BJP leaders are aware that they cannot easily penetrate into the MY (Muslim-Yadav) equation of the RJD, they go for weakening the JD-U vote bank. The voters of Kushwaha community are on the target list of the saffron party in the state.

The way Upendra Kushwaha formed a new party – Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal (RLJD) – by leaving the JD-U and now openly supporting the BJP is an indication that the BJP would hurt the Kushwaha vote bank of Nitish Kumar.

Upendra Kushwaha has openly announced that “there is no leader who could challenge Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections”.

To strenghthen its hold over the Kushwaha community, the saffron party has even made Samrat Chaudhary – who belongs to Kushwaha community – the party’s state president. The idea is to give a message to the voters of Kushwaha community that Nitish Kumar is not their leader.

To counter the strategy of BJP, JD-U prepared jumbo jet teams, keeping in mind the caste equations.

The national team comprising 32 leaders is led by party’s national President Lalan Singh, while the state team with 252 leaders in it is being led by party’s state chief Umesh Kushwaha.

JD-U, to keep Kushwaha vote bank intact, has given the responsibility to two Kushwaha leaders to lead Rohtas and Muzaffarpur districts. The idea is to make up for the loss of Kushwaha votes after Upendra Kushwaha left the party. Further, it has appointed Mangni Lal Mandal as national vice president of the party to make a substitute of Upendra Kushwaha.

JD-U has given space to five leaders of Muslim community in the national team. Besides them, four leaders belong to upper castes, eight leaders of Lav-Kush community, two leaders of Yadav community, six leaders of EBC and two Mahadalit leaders are also given space in the national team.

Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats and will play crucial role in deciding the fate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2019, BJP-led NDA that also had support of JD-U in Bihar had won 39 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats. However, the situation has changed now; in 2024, BJP is in the Opposition and has to contest against an alliance of seven parties headed by Nitish Kumar. It has to face the might of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jitan Ram Manjhi and left parties leaders. After the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and the issue of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification has given new life to the Congress in Bihar.

This is the reason why BJP’s ‘Chanakya’ and Union Home Minister Amit Shah is making frequent visits to Bihar to strengthen his party’s position.

Reacting on Shah’s visit, RJD senior leader and MLA Bhai Virendra said: “The visit of Amit Shah will not have much impact in Bihar. People are aware that the BJP means ‘Badka Jhutha Party’. It had come into power with many promises and none of them were fulfilled. Unemployment, price rise, farmers issues still haunt the state and the country… The Mahagathbandhan will win all 40 seats in the state.” — IANS

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