Heads will roll and many will come to have the “ex” prefix by the time results are declared in the Bihar Assembly polls on Sunday evening. However, one individual who went into polling season came out certain knowing he will look better.
Ramchandra Chandravanshi, Jharkhand’s health minister, camped for almost a month in Bihar attending close to 50 rallies. He even shared the stage with Narendra Modi at multiple rallies.
By all accounts, Chandravanshi was the most visible Jharkhand-based leader in Bihar this election, surpassing even his Chief Minister Raghubar Das and former CM Arjun Munda. The health minister’s star has risen quickly, especially for someone who switched over from the RJD to the BJP about a year back.
Chandravanshi owes his importance to the BJP’s decision to actively woo extremely backward class (EBC) voters; for which the health minister just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
He is of the Kahar caste, whose people were traditionally palanquin bearers or water carriers. They comprise less than one per cent of the state’s population.
At the October 25 rally in Nalanda district, when the BJP overtly reached out to the EBCs, with PM Modi reminding his audience that he was himself an “ati pichada,” the Jharkhand minister had introduced himself as being from a caste that is on Bihar’s EBC list; Kahars are OBC in Jharkhand. “Only the BJP can make a Chandravanshi a minister,” he had said.
On Saturday, Chandravanshi told this newspaper that his party’s strategy had been incredibly successful: “I am sure that 99 per cent of Chandravanshis have voted for the BJP.”
His presence was not an isolated one – the BJP brought in the likes of Uttar Pradesh resident Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti to target specific EBC castes from which it has no leaders in Bihar. In Sadhvi Jyoti’s case, it was the Nishads, a community of fishermen and boatmen.
BJP has been responding to requests from villages for meetings of caste leaders of specific castes, but Chandravanshi said he had been recognised in villages: “I was a minister here from 1995 to 2000 before Jharkhand’s formation and people still remember me.” Chandravanshi is a third-time legislator, having won twice on RJD tickets before.