Bihar polls on mind, 3 more get Narendra Modi berthshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/bihar-polls-on-mind-3-more-get-narendra-modi-berths/

Bihar polls on mind, 3 more get Narendra Modi berths

BJP consolidates upper castes, aims at Yadav votebank with former Lalu aide

Giriraj Singh, MoS for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, belongs to Bhumihar caste.
Giriraj Singh, MoS for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, belongs to Bhumihar caste.

With the induction of three more ministers from Bihar in the council of ministers — Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Giriraj Singh and Ram Kripal Yadav — the state now has seven ministers including one each from NDA partners, Ramvilas Paswan (LJP) and Upendra Kushwaha (RLSP).

As per the caste equation, BJP, which has 22 MPs from the state, has allotted ministries to four upper castes and one OBC Yadav. The three of the four prominent upper castes represented are Rajputs, Bhumihar and Kayastha. Brahmin, considered the core constituency of the BJP among the upper castes, has been left unrepresented, which is why Buxar MP and prominent Brahmin leader Ashwini Kumar Choubey does not count himself out before any future cabinet expansion ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.

Sunday’s expansion makes it clear that BJP wants to convey that its “social coalition of upper castes is intact” after the “initial confusion of Bhumihars being left out” — only Radha Mohan Singh (Rajput) and Ravishankar Prasad (Kayastha) were inducted from Bihar when Narendra Modi took oath as PM in May.

BJP sources said the party had been looking at the “right choices” and upper caste consolidation with the inductions of Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Giriraj Singh.

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“While Rudy comes with previous administrative experience at the Centre, his victory over Rabri Devi (RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s wife) added weight to his resume. That he is a prominent Rajput leader who always dared to challenge Lalu Prasad also goes strongly in his favour,” a BJP leader said,adding that Giriraj Singh now represents Bhumihars at the Centre, a political move that will keep the caste group “committed to BJP” amidst JD(U)’s bid to woo them with a fair representation in the Jeetan Ram Manjhi government.

With the Bhumihars reportedly not voting for JD(U) in the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP sees all the more reason to consolidate upper caste votes, which constitute 13 per cent of the state’s population.

With Pataliputra MP Ram Kripal Yadav’s induction, BJP looks to throw direct posers to Lalu, whose votebank is now threatened. Ram Kripal, who had been a trusted Lalu aide before the last Lok Sabha elections and a sworn Modi critic, is now projected as BJP’s arsenal against the RJD.

Social scientist and Asian Development Research Institute member secretary Shaibal Gupta explained to The Indian Express: “BJP has now been trying a social coalition of major sections of upper castes and OBC Yadavs along with its traditional Vaishya votebase against Nitish Kumar’s successful NDA days’ coalition of extremes – upper castes and Dalits”. He added that BJP had been “engaging politically muscular castes like Rajputs, Bhumihars, Yadavs and Paswans who may influence voting pattern of other social groups” like EBCs. He said that Dalit leader Ramvilas Paswan and OBC Kushwaha leader Upendra Kushwaha will provide the “supplementary social coalition package for NDA”.