Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been reworking his social engineering since the snapping of ties with the BJP, the latest changes coming days before the code of conduct came into effect. His government has included two communities from the other backward classes list to that for of extremely backward classes. Before that, an upper-caste Brahmin sub-caste had been moved into the OBC list.
EBCs are a subgroup of OBCs and gain in reservation to government jobs, 17 per cent in a chunk of 27 per cent. Technically called OBC-II, this group is also entitled to higher scholarships for its students and reservation of seats in panchayats.
Giri, a Brahmin sub-caste, was moved into the OBC list through a government notification last July 27, one-and-a-half months after the NDA split. Bihar has over 25 lakh Giris, mainly in Chhapra, Siwan and Motihari.
Last month, the cabinet approved the inclusion of a Muslim caste so far among OBCs, Kulhaiya, in the EBC list. The Kulhaiya population is concentrated largely in Araria, Purnea and Kishanganj, in that order. Bihar has over 20 lakh Kulhaiyas. The JD(U) is likely to field a Muslim candidate from Araria.
The other OBC made an EBC is Rajbanshi, comprising a three lakh population that is concentrated largely in Purnea and areas bordering West Bengal, a state in which they are a scheduled caste.
The inclusion of Kulhaiyas and Rajbanshis among EBCs has not been notified because the code of conduct was then imminent and has since come into force. Government sources say the notification is only a formality, however, and the “message has reached the benfiting communities”.
A number of other OBCs have been raising demands for similar inclusion. Among them is the caste Teli, whose demand is unlikely to be accepted, the government sources say. Bihar has 131 OBCs and 130-odd EBCs, whose members together make up around 65 per cent of the population.
The Giri caste takes its inclusion as long overdue. “Bihar was one of the few states that had kept the Giris among the upper castes,” says Manoranjan Giri, Bihar head of Akhil Bhartiya Goswami Mahasabha. “The Giri caste is an OBC in 23 states. We are happy we have been included among OBCs, and the move will certainly benefit Nitish Kumar in the elections.”
The objectives Nitish sought to achieve with his social engineering model have been uncertain ever since the JD(U) parted ways with the BJP. The changes, a senior JD (U) leader confirms, are part of electoral calculations. The leader says the party will bank on its Luv-Kush (OBC Koeri-Kurmi) strength and field enough Yadav and Muslim candidates to “out-think the RJD” and to “nullify any Narendra Modi factor” with the “new social combination”.
The party is set to field Yadav candidates in five Lok Sabha seats, Sitamarhi, Madhepura, Jhanjharpur, Khagaria and Pataliputra. The CPI, a JD(U) ally, too will field a Yadav candidate in Banka. In at least four seats, Buxar, Aurangabad, Ujiyarpur and Valmiki Nagar, the JD(U) is likely to field Kushwaha candidates. For Muslim candidates, the likely seats will be among Kishanganj, Araria, Sheohar and Madhubani. And to counter the BJP’s pereceived upper-caste base vote, the JD(U) is looking at Rajput candidates for Ara and Maharajganj, Brahmins for Darbhanga and Betiah (West Champaran) and Bhumihars for Munger, Jehanabad and Begusarai.