For all the talk about a development plank for both Nitish Kumar and the NDA, their candidate lists make it amply clear which caste group which alliance is catering to.
The grand alliance’s list of 242 candidates focuses on OBCs, Dalits and Muslims, in that order. It does try to strike a balance by giving 16 per cent representation to upper castes, who represent 13 per cent of the population, but its 39 upper-caste candidates are fewer than the 65 of the BJP alone. This is in addition to the handful of upper-caste nominees fielded by the BJP’s allies. The NDA has so far announced 218 of its 243 candidates, with six of the BJP and 19 of the LJP remaining.
Roughly 55 and 15 per cent respectively of the grand alliance candidates are OBCs and Dalits. These are two caste groups that the BJP has left to its partners to cater to. The LJP, HAM and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP have so far given between 70 and 75 per cent of their tickets to OBCs and Dalits, with the first two giving more than a third of their shares to Dalits. Overall, the NDA is some five percentage points behind the grand alliance on the count of OBC and Dalit candidates.
There are targeted caste equations in deciding those candidates too. The RLSP has fielded four Kushwahas and a Patel to cut into Nitish Kumar’s Koeri-Kurmi votes, while the BJP has fielded 36 Yadavs to challenge Lalu Prasad’s base vote.
The grand alliance has fielded 33 Muslims against nine so far by NDA constituents, including four by Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM and two by the BJP. Prominent Muslim faces in the grand alliance are Abdul Bari Siddiqui, Faiyaz Ahmed, Sarfuddin and Sarfaraz Khan. The RJD alone has given tickets to 19 Muslims, followed by the JD(U) with nine and the Congress with seven out of 41, the highest proportion.
The grand alliance has fielded 25 women including three ministers, Ranju Gita, Lesi Singh and Bima Bharti. The JD(U) has also given a ticket to sitting Khagaria MLA Poonam Devi Yadav from Khagaria. Poonam is the wife of muscleman Ranbir Yadav, who has completed his sentence for the Taufir Diara massacre years ago.
The JD(U) has left out six of its sitting MLAs. These include health minister Ramdhani Singh, sitting Karahgar MLA, who promptly joined the Samajwadi Party.
His supporters had gathered outside the party office even before Nitish had announced the list.
The JD(U) has dropped jailed musclemen Anant Singh, who has already left the party, from Mokama as well as Tarari MLA Narendra Pandey a.k.a. Sunil Pandey. The JD(U) gave Tarari to the Congress. Singh and Pandey are likely to contest as independents.
Dadan Pahalwan, a muscleman from Buxar district known for campaigning in a two-seat helicopter, has been given a JD(U) ticket because of his high vote counts in earlier polls as an independent and an SP candidate, though he won neither. The JD(U) removed Dumraon MLA Dawood Ali to accommodate Dadan Singh Yadav, popularly known as Dadan Pahalwan, and also left out Chenari MLA Shyam Bihari Ram.
The RJD has denied a ticket to its Jagdishpur MLA Dinesh Kumar Singh a.k.a. Bhai Dinesh, who had threatened to immolate himself. The RJD retained most of its 24 sitting MLAs.
Big Fight: At Imamganj (SC), Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary of JD(U) takes on Jitan Ram Manjhi. In Makhdumpur, Manjhi faces RJD’s Subedar Singh.
Congress vs BJP: Congress faces BJP heavyweights in a number of urban seats, including Bankipore and Kumhrar, which have had BJP MLAs for more than two decades, and Gaya Town from where Prem Kumar is a long-time winner.
Assembly leaders: Congress Legislature Party leader Sadanand Singh will contest from Kahalgao. His RJD counterpart Abdul Bari Siddiqui will contest from Alinagar in Darbhanga. Against BJP veteran Nand Kishore Yadav, Leader of the Opposition, the contestant is RJD’s Santosh Mehta.