First, sample these caste break-ups of candidates from either camp: the Grand Alliance which announced its 242 of 243 candidates yesterday, has given tickets to Yadavs (64), Scheduled Castes (36), Muslims (33), EBCs (25) and Kushwahas and Kurmis (OBCs – 38) and upper castes (38).
The NDA which has announced 214 out of 243 seats, has distributed tickets in the following manner: upper castes (85), Scheduled Castes (32), Yadavs (25), EBCs (20) and Kushwaha and Koeris (23).
Both alliances have played to their respective social base strengths and also tried to poach on each other’s constituency — the Grand Alliance by giving a good number of tickets to upper castes and the NDA by fielding a good number of Yadavs, Kushwaha and Scheduled Castes.
Dalits and EBCs who will be the real deciders, have been involved in a real tug of war with the Grand Alliance and the NDA trying to woo Dalits by giving them 36 and 32 seats, respectively and 25 and 20 seats to EBCs, respectively.
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So it comes down to this: the Grand Alliance’s MYKED (Muslim, Yadav Kushwaha/Kurmi, EBC and Dalits) versus NDA’s DUEY (Dalits, upper castes, EBCs and Yadavs).
The two alliances have fielded candidates almost along predictable lines to stitch together a social rainbow despite all talk of an upper caste and backward caste divide — although there is a clear bias in the NDA towards the upper castes (almost one third of the seats) and the Grand Alliance giving 115 seats to Muslims, Yadavs and Kushwaha/Kurmis – traditional vote banks of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. Bihar’s CM ensured 36 seats went to his carefully-cultivated Scheduled Caste constituency, now seriously threatened with Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi being in the rival camp.
The Yadav vote, which saw some drift in the 2014 Lok Sabba elections, is again the focus of the NDA that otherwise could not have matched Grand Alliance’s tally — just as the Nitish-led alliance could not have matched the upper caste tally of the NDA. This is the most outstanding line of demarcation, though entirely predictable.
The NDA has given 35 tickets to upper castes Rajputs and Bhumihars, who constitute about 4 per cent and 3.5 per cent, respectively, of state population. The Grand Alliance has played the Yadav card to the hilt by giving about 24 per cent of its tickets to the Yadavs who represent about 14.5 per cent of state’s population. Though the Grand Alliance sees complete Muslim consolidation in its favour, the NDA has fielded nine Muslims, seven from HAM (S), RLSP and LJP to leave some posers to Muslims.
Nitish Kumar and BJP may well walk the development plank but ticket distribution can never be done beyond caste lines.