The Myth of Bihar's Caste-based Voting

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Bihar electorate gave a thumping mandate in 2010 rising above caste and narrow sectarian consideration to the political dispensation which showed it hope and was doing a truly great job on the development front. Old shibboleths which had kept Bihar tied to poverty and backwardness were getting broken and people were starting to see rays of a new sunrise. So clear was the mandate that all caste equation theorists were shown their place by the savvy voters of Bihar.

The alliance broke in 2013 and the public which had given it a decisive mandate to it was in a dilemma. The voters of the alliance could not relate to the events which led to its dissolution. However, they trusted the leaders who decided to break the alliance. So this election, there is an understandable chaos in the minds of the people. Bihari electorate is confused. Some pollsters project a BJP win but none expect the kind of decisive mandate that NDA had gotten the last time. 

I observe that a set of 'Intellectuals' are using this understandable dilemma of the voters as an opportunity to propound their opinionated half-baked theories of caste equations. These theories are being propounded in academic sounding papers and TV debates. At this point, the objective of these theorists appears to be to create an anti-BJP wave and if Bihar's fair name gets besmirched in the process, so be it. 

I hate these analyses which see Bihar politics exclusively through the lens of caste. I am also upset by BJP supporters who are giving their own theory of caste equations to support their case. Let us be clear, the worst losers of these scurrilous theories are the poorest of the poor from Bihar who have to suffer all kinds of indignities when they migrate in search of livelihood, but can these intellectuals be bothered? 

Bihar has repeatedly broken the myth of caste based voting. This is true of 1977, 80, 84, 89 / 90, 2005 and 2010. Even 1995. Where did caste calculations go in all these elections? Precisely where they belonged, in the dustbin of failed social theories. The only elections which were exceptions to this were when the Election Commission failed to control malpractices which vitiated the vote in favour of the ruling party. 

The most visible failure was of Mr. T. N. Seshan who completely failed to control booth capturing leading to RJD winning in 2000. But because the media had declared Seshan to be its darling, they refused to acknowledge his abject failure to control malpractices. Lazy characters, rather than looking at the root cause of the win by a poor government, chose to explain it based on caste based equations. It should be noted that no sooner did K. J. Rao control electoral malpractices in Bihar; we got a government truly representative of the state in 2005. Biharis were not the cause, abject systemic failure was. 

If BJP wins this time in Bihar, and my own prediction is also that it will win in Bihar, mark my word, this win will be due to the association of BJP with the development work done in Bihar and association of Narendra Modi with development, not caste. It will be a grave injustice to Bihari electorate, even insult, if it is explained on the basis of caste. 

Even if caste-based voting were true in some pockets, anyone who is a well wisher of Bihar will downplay it. When election after election has proved it to be bunkum, those propounding these theories can only be characterised as enemies of Bihar whose analyses border on motivated denigration. 

We Biharis have allowed these JNU/DU and Delhi TV studio type semi-educated sociologists to demonise Bihar in the name of casteism for far too long. It is time we Biharis understood how bad this demonisation is and how adversely it affects the Bihari asmita.

 


T. V. Sinha

T. V. Sinha, Guest Contributor, PatnaDaily.Com

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